Kemper's Reviews > The Lock Artist

The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton
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Jul 24, 11

bookshelves: 2011, bad-guys-rule, crime-mystery, modern-lit, thieves, bouchercon, signed-by-author
Read from July 16 to 20, 2011

How many times have I seen or read about a character picking a lock? I’m a crime/mystery fan so it’s gotta be in the hundreds. Maybe even over a thousand. It’s such a common cliché we don’t even think about anymore. A door is locked, and a character pulls out their little case with their tools and picks it . Yet this is the first story I’ve ever read that actually explains what it takes to pick a lock or open a safe. Surprise! It’s not as easy as it is in the movies, but it makes for a helluva good crime novel.

The book is narrated by Michael who quickly explains that he’s been in prison for years and has not spoken a word in longer than that. As a child, he survived some kind of traumatic experience that left him unable to speak even though there’s no physical reason for it. Taken in and raised by his liquor store owning uncle, Michael grows up alienated and lonely, but he gets interested in locks after playing around with a discarded one and teaches himself how to pick it. The story skips around to show us that Michael got mixed up with criminals who contact him to open safes during robberies. Eventually we learn how Michael went from a mute boy who liked to play with locks to a professional safecracker and the terrible event that left him mute.

Like Mystic River or Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter this is a character based crime novel that transcends the genre. Michael has unique voice despite being speechless, and Hamilton has created a character with the best of intentions who gets in over his head with extremely bad people. It sounds silly but there’s also an incredible amount of tension built around the lock picking and safe cracking scenes where Michael is explaining his process and getting lost in mental space where all that exists is the lock he’s trying to open.

This is both a great crime novel and an excellent story about a young man struggling to come to terms with his past.
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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message 1: by James (new)

James Thane Comparing the book to Mystic River is high praise indeed. I'll have to look for this one.


message 2: by Lou (new) - added it

Lou Also don't forget the Edgar award it won.


message 3: by Ina (new)

Ina I loved Mystic River (book and movie) so maybe this is something for me:)


Chip Just read this. Liked it quite a bit - more than the other Hamilton book I'd read, A Cold Day In Paradise. May consider reading more of his stuff now - based solely on A Cold Day I don't think I would have bothered.


Kemper Chip wrote: "Just read this. Liked it quite a bit - more than the other Hamilton book I'd read, A Cold Day In Paradise. May consider reading more of his stuff now - based solely on A Cold Day I don't think I ..."

I think I read another book by him that didn't blow me away, but I really enjoyed this one.


message 6: by Trudi (new)

Trudi The Winchesters pick an awful lot of locks. My favorite lock picking scene is from Misery, with Paul and the hair pin.


Kemper Trudi wrote: "The Winchesters pick an awful lot of locks. My favorite lock picking scene is from Misery, with Paul and the hair pin."

It always comes back to Supernatural and Stephen King for you, doesn't it?


message 8: by Trudi (new)

Trudi Kemper wrote: "It always comes back to Supernatural and Stephen King for you, doesn't it?"

What can I say? I'm a simple girl with simple taste.


Kemper Trudi wrote: "What can I say? I'm a simple girl with simple taste."

A taste for the pain and suffering of others!


message 10: by Trudi (new)

Trudi I won't deny that (and anyone who lives in a glass house shouldn't throw dead hookers).


Kemper Trudi wrote: "I won't deny that (and anyone who lives in a glass house shouldn't throw dead hookers)."

That's just silly. A dead hooker is way too heavy to throw...


message 12: by Chip (new) - rated it 4 stars

Chip At least you both appreciate that once they're dead, they're hookers, not call girls.


Kemper Chip wrote: "At least you both appreciate that once they're dead, they're hookers, not call girls."

And I always have a rug handy to roll them up in...


message 14: by Trudi (new)

Trudi Kemper wrote: "And I always have a rug handy to roll them up in..."

House rules Sammy: if you can roll 'em up you should be able to throw them, spaghetti arms.

You'd think all that beer lifting would have given you upper body Hulk strength.


Kemper Trudi wrote: "House rules Sammy: if you can roll 'em up you should be able to throw them, spaghetti arms.

You'd think all that beer lifting ..."


I'm over 40 so all my physical abilities are in an advanced state of decline.


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