I have been wondering how authors were going to handle the pandemic in novels that are set in a realistic world. Billy Summers by Stephen King gave us one view of it where he set the novel before the pandemic and allude to its coming, but The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly might have given us the blueprint.
The Law of Innocence is by far the best book I have read set during the pandemic and it might also be the only one. I have read other books published late in 2020 and 2021 but few have mentioned the pandemic and if they do it is as a future event as they are set before it. There was a period of time in literature where authors all but ignored the advent of the cell phone and it wasn’t until more recently that social media has started to appear regularly in novels.
With the pandemic we have a short term event that could easily be ignored or authors could pretend doesn’t exist. They could have all set their books before it or slightly after and no one would notice a thing. What Connelly does in The Law of Innocence is build up to the pandemic much like most of us did.
I remember talking to my friend early on when China first locked down and he told me he had a friend over their on a work trip and it was scary. The thing was this kind of stuff had happened before where China or another country had an outbreak of a virus and it never made it to the US. As we know now that isn’t what happened, but Connelly’s novel builds towards the lockdowns in the US and all the early fear surrounding the virus.
The Law of Innocence takes place from November of 2019 to early March of 2020 and it doesn’t ignore the pandemic or pretend it never happened. It doesn’t address it head on either as that isn’t what the story is about but it weaves it into the background in a very realistic manner. It wasn’t until mid-March that everything shutdown and the pandemic became the main focus of everyone’s life. I remember still going about my business in early 2020 and then suddenly there was no business to go about.
It is in those early days of the pandemic when The Law of Innocence is set and it answers the question of how authors should handle it perfectly. They should handle it the same way all the rest of us did.