As a vicious virus spreads across the earth from the Chuken province of China and countries act quickly and defensively to keep it from crossing their borders, Great Britain drools in the wake of Brexit, the City of London casually betting on which economies will go belly-up first. Hedge fund managers prop their Italian loafers on their desktops while frantic television reporters shriek angrily about the City’s unfettered venality to an apathetic audience in that strange and terrible place known as Chrome Valley.
As the tousle-haired terrorist issues stentorian herd immunity proclamations from Downing Street, Randolph Carter and his friend Dean Brayker make their way home as the Valley folds up in lockdown. They watch gangs in gas masks shatter storefronts and steal medical supplies, while Dolph’s mother, Ophelia, a nurse at Waddling Gate Hospital, is escorted to a front-row seat as the apocalypse unfolds. A bum named Charlie wanders into A&E, collapsing in the poisonous effluvium of COVID-20 and unleashing the demon that will finally drag Chrome Valley into the deepest depths of Hell. Ophelia is called to tend to Charlie, and as she drags him to a treatment theater – the hospital has run out of stretchers — she faintly hears the hoofbeats of the Four Horsemen, although she doesn’t yet recognize the sound.
Home, a cramped house on the rough side of Chrome Valley, is no shelter, with Dolph’s venomous grandmother blaming Ophelia for her son’s illness — Dolph’s father is quarantined in the master bedroom — and shrieking ignorant invective at her grandchildren, which drives Dolph and Brayker to wander the streets despite a police-enforced curfew. The cops are soon supplanted by the COVID-20 Special Force military subdivision as a tent hospital is erected and Waddling Gate Hospital is declared contaminated beyond repair, while not far away lurk the lime trucks, parked alongside an empty field as the overnight brokers in the City bet billions in a worldwide game of Monopoly, shuffling Get Out of Jail Free cards to each other as the citizens of Chrome Valley run out of time, hemmed in by armed barricades blocking every exit out of town and precisely plotted mass graves awaiting their corpses, because Chrome Valley and its citizens are the sacrificial lambs of COVID-20. No one gets out alive.
As society collapses in a fever dream around them, felled by gangster bullets, Molotov cocktails, or the inescapable “Chinese AIDS,” Dolph and Brayker watch their bleak world grow ever bleaker. Rival gangs threaten mayhem as the teens try to maintain a semblance of decency — rescuing an elderly Asian couple from a Chinese takeaway, tending to Dolph’s dying father, trying to stop the gangsters from immolating the west side with their gasoline bombs — but the virus still grabs them in its bony claws and drags them to their death. Their screams and moans are muffled by the sound of the moneychangers on international calls between Wall Street and the City, betting billions on who will live and who will die, just distant decimal points to the men and women in green eyeshades.
And with the ever-present beat of The Knack echoing throughout the valley as soldiers spread lime over dead bodies and riddle gangsters with machine gun fire as they try to ram through a barricade to the virus-free haven of Hoarders Point, while disease riddled-neighbors scream My Corona as they shed skin and bone skidding across tarmac and vomiting streams of snot and gore as neighbors gurgle the lyrics, Chrome Valley finally dies in a bloody blaze of vomit, prejudice, and hatred. The Four Horsemen silently circle the town, their skeletal grins covering it in everlasting darkness.
A villain in this book who meets a very bad end is named for a dishonest broker who crossed Book Review Gal, and she thanks Mr. Mackay for his consideration.