1 Even though it is a thriller mystery action adventure, it s very character driven Our main character the thrillingly named Mike has been silent since the age of eight, when Something Terrible Happened to Him And by silent, I mean Quiet As The Dead And Not Like a Zombie Novel But Like a Novel Where the Dead Really Don t Make Noise Because They Actually Are Dead And by Something Terrible, I mean Something I Thought I Had Guessed Because I Have read A Million books But Actually No It Was Not That It Was Worse Mike doesn t speak At all It s remarkable to watch how Hamilton manages this narrator who can only tell stories in his head 2 The pacing There is something magical going on with the pacing in this novel, and I need to go back and take it apart slowly and methodically to figure out exactly how Hamilton did it It s a page turner, but not like that Ordinarily I m quiet bored by action sequences Right, gun, sure, kick, yep, punch, okay, blood are we done here I want to get back to the plot, and action scenes are often like sex scenes they are just hanging there, an exclamation point on the end of a sentence that we ve already read But, somehow, not with this novel I HAD to keep turning the pages, yes, but not because of the action It was because every page left me with a question, and I had to turn the page if I ever wanted to find out the answer It meant that instead of my usual racing through an action novel, flipping pages faster and faster, I was reading with the same care and urgency at the end as I was at the beginning I don t know how to describe it any better than that.
2 b The prose This really is sort of in line with the pacing When I first began reading the novel, I thought, man, this prose is so easy It just says what it says Well, okay, whatever I ll just read a few pages And then, the next thing I knew, four hours had gone by and I d finished the novel and I was hugging my Nook to my chest The prose became utterly invisible Like a very good thief, it got in, did its job, and got out, without leaving any trace of itself I can appreciate just how hard it is to write a book that reads so easily Well done, Hamilton 3 Girl You know these things always have a token girl The one that makes the hero look noble and powerful and hetero Well, this book also has a girl, but she is smart and unique and felt like a person There was no thumping of chests and conquests There was just a really wonderful and slightly uncomfortable teen romance With comic book, menial labor, and lock picking overtones 4 The annoying thing about thrillers is that they so rarely pay off They re, well, thrilling, and then you get to the end and go, yup Well, that happened Next Possibly the best thing about this book is that the second half of it is as strong as the first, if not stronger, and there is one of the most psychologically horrific scenes that I ve read in awhile in the second half It might have something to do with the Terrible Thing That Happened to Mike Hamilton proceeds briskly from this Terrible Scene into the denouement, which is tense and satisfying and exactly the way I wanted the book to end That pretty much makes this book the perfect thriller in my eyes.
5 I am not the only person who has adored this book It is an Edgar winner that s a prestigious award for mystery, for you muggles out there and it s also an Alex Award winner, which is how I found it The ALA Alex Award recognize adult books with high appeal to teen readers, and I tend to love their choices If you compare the list of Alex winners over the years with my five star books on Goodreads, you ll see considerable overlap Because it s an adult book, not a YA, I should mention that there are f bombs and violence and all that jazz More Guy Ritchie than Tarantino, though, for the most part I have now managed to write a novel about this novel If you re looking for a book about guns and helicopters and safes, go pick it up Or even if you re looking for a book about guns and helicopters and magic Because it ll still make you happy.
An interesting and suspenseful story of a mute teenaged safecracker.
The book provides such detailed intstructions on how to pick locks and open safes that I was finally able to let myself into my neighbor s house and steal those photos that he s been using to bribeOops I ve said too much.
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 clich we don t even think about any 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.
If you re into stuff like this, you can read the full review While reading this novel, I started thinking about literary devices, namely telling a story backwards telling me who the culprit was but not who was killed and why, jumping back and forth, and then slowly explaining the details What draw me in in the first place was not the protagonist, but the novel s structure Hamilton divided the narrative into chunks apparently without taking notice of events, but with an eye to narrative tension and dramatic effect Off the top of my head I can t think of many other crime novels organized in this way Nevertheless various narrative threads in this novel are pitch perfect, as well as being able to deepen the connection between structure, protagonist and subject matter hopping between three timelines present day, where Michael is reaching the end of his jail time, the series of events that led him to learn how to unlock a safe and his brief history as a professional safe cracker.
You can read the rest of this review elsewhere.
Mute artistic safecracker hardly sounds like a promising profile for the main character in a thriller, but it works There s a lot of originality here that makes this fun to read Michael was rendered mute by a traumatic experience at age eight Now he s in prison for a robbery gone very wrong, and he tells the story of how he ended up in his current situation He alternates between two story lines that eventually converge sort of One is the story of his young life as a mute, and how he became a safecracker boxman The second story line is about the complications of his life as an on call boxman who is unable to speak His two great talents are drawing and picking locks Hence, the double entendre in the title Lock Artist Get it There are a few things that are a little hokey, but they re amusing and they move the plot along, so I didn t mind The thing with the Coke can and the scissors that just happened to be within reach was quite a stretch, though I liked the way the pieces all came together in the story, with his artwork becoming an important part of his communication One thing You DO get to find out what happened to Michael when he was eight, so have faith I got deeply involved in the story, then had this awful thought that I might get all the way to the end and never know the event that made him mute I didn t see any reviews complaining of that, so I kept going, and I m glad I did If you don t normally read thriller mystery stories, you might want to give this a spin HA just for unique s sake It s not really a mystery or a thriller in the way you d usually think of that genre.
I didn t know that once you ve proven yourself useful to the wrong people, you ll never be free again Sometimes you just a fun book, one that will just entertain you regardless of the prose, writing style and all that jazz I was in need for that so when I picked this up after reading so many sad stories it kind of got me in a happy mood It was so fascinating and the plot was so cool that it seemed like I was watching a spy thriller movie The perspective of the story is from a 17 year old Micheal with a special kind of gift of opening safes and it has landed him in some major trouble with some pretty nasty characters He didn t entail things to get out of hand so he tries to explain what went down He also has a dark hidden past that was so traumatic that he spends the rest of his days after that trauma as a mute Yes, he doesn t speak not once but as the reader, we get a glimpse of his deep dark thoughts I was so impressed with our main protagonist, I normally don t like the main character in most YA books but this one was a gem It was a strong voice and he was so vulnerable that I was so rooting for him all the way through Yes, he made some not so smart decisions but he was just so special and once his past came to the light the story broke me and it took a very dark turn that I wasn t expecting The narrative flowed so well and it kept me interested the way the author incorporated art in the story was impressive plus I just had fun with the book and It might not be for everyone but I highly recommend it to those who love cracking safes heist stories Somewhere in the ocean, a shark was missing its cold eyes because this man had them.
It jumps back and forth in time, and teaches us how to become an expert safecracker along the way The narrator is a distinctive young man, Michael something terrible happened to him when he was a child, before he came to live with his Uncle Lito that runs the liquor store, and since then, he has never talked again Michael has a gift for visual recall and a talent for drawing, so art helps him cope with many of the serious life challenges he confronts, steadfastly mute He also has a fascination for opening locks, soon demonstrated as an incredible gift for breaking into safes A loner teen who just wants to be accepted and maybe spend some time with the girl he secretly idolizes, his luck runs to extremes both very bad and very good This is a gritty crime novel and the coming of age, loss of innocence story of a hard knocks teenager in the late 20th century Con man strategies, burglary techniques, and how criminal networks back then used pagers are just a few of the many useful insights it offers while it speaks to universal themes of abuse, loneliness, integrity, and love.
About a quarter of the way through The Lock Artist, by Steve Hamilton, I began pondering one of those meta questions about reading What are the qualities of a book that make you not want to put it down That compel you to read just a couple pages until you wake at 4 15 a.
m with the lights on, your glasses perched on your nose and the book stretched open across your chest That make you willing to tote two or three extra pounds of hardcover book in your bag, despite the sore neck it causes, on the off chance you ll be able to sneak away at lunch and read a chapter At first glance, The Lock Artist doesn t seem to be the sort of book that inspires these kind of musings It s not book club material there are no author interviews and high school English class style questions at the back I only marked one passage, on page 36, with a Post it flag The prose is crisp and clean, squarely in the American crime novel tradition, though soft boiled than hard boiled But it didn t inspire me to re read passages except when I realized I d dozed off trying not to put the book down In a twist now so conventional it s not twisted any, the narrator is the criminal, not the cop pursuing him The plot, like the prose, is not complex The author uses a technique that often annoys me, alternating chapters between past and present to build up to The Big Reveal, by which time almost anything revealed will be anti climatic All the makings of a very ordinary crime thriller that I couldn t wait to get back to, that I sacrificed sleep for, that I couldn t put down The Lock Artist is one of those novels where all the ordinary pieces are so well done and come together so seamlessly that the result is an extraordinarily good read The narrator, Mike, is the 17 year old Lock Artist, a boxman, a yegg, a safecracker and pick lock with natural talent He is a specialist who is called in to do one thing, get through the locks and into the safe He is also the Miracle Boy, who at 9 survived some unnamed horror that has rendered him completely mute The novel alternates between telling the story of how Mike became The Lock Artist and telling the story of how being The Lock Artist wound him up in prison, where he is at the beginning of the story Is he redeemed from his life of crime and relieved of the trauma that silences him No spoilers here read it for yourself One has to give some credit to Mike for making this book so gripping He s a great character, likable, a little naive, honest despite being a thief, lacking in self pity and stoic His muteness allows those around him to impose their own personality on him, which he is sometimes able to use to his advantage He does not blame anyone for his life or his own choices, and he is perhaps a bit too generous toward those who took his choices away from him Mike is an artist in another way He draws He communicates to the love of his life through comic book panels that become his voice and finally allow him to tell his own story It occurs to me that much of the book has that comic book quality meant as a good thing I like comic books Each chapter, each scene contains only what is needed to convey the story, and yet the simplicity is deceptive because what is conveyed with a single line is evocative than pages of text Last week, The Lock Artist won the 2011 Edgar Award for Best Novel It is well deserved Lately I ve been disappointed in several books that have garnered awards and praise and top spots on best of lists This book restores my faith in the award givers that sometimes, at least, they really do know what they re doing.
I Was The Miracle Boy, Once Upon A Time Later On, The Milford Mute The Golden Boy The Young Ghost The Kid The Boxman The Lock Artist That Was All MeBut You Can Call Me Mike Marked By Tragedy, Traumatized At The Age Of Eight, Michael, Now Eighteen, Is No Ordinary Young Man Besides Not Uttering A Single Word In Ten Years, He Discovers The One Thing He Can Somehow Do Better Than Anyone Else Whether It S A Locked Door Without A Key, A Padlock With No Combination, Or Even An Eight Hundred Pound Safe He Can Open Them All It S An Unforgivable Talent A Talent That Will Make Young Michael A Hot Commodity With The Wrong People And, Whether He Likes It Or Not, Push Him Ever Close To A Life Of Crime Until He Finally Sees His Chance To Escape, And With One Desperate Gamble Risks Everything To Come Back Home To The Only Person He Ever Loved, And To Unlock The Secret That Has Kept Him Silent For So Long Steve Hamilton Steps Away From His Edgar Award Winning Alex McKnight Series To Introduce A Unique New Character, Unlike Anyone You Ve Ever Seen In The World Of Crime Fiction The problem of expectations expect too much and disappointment ruins the tale The Lock Artist appears on number of recommended or Best Lists and the premise, a teen aged elective mute safecracker, sounds intriguing It promised to be as original as Jonathan Lethem s tour de force Motherless Brooklyn Alas, this is not Motherless Brooklyn.
After a promising start, by cranking up the suspense by telling that our protagonist, Mike, suffered a traumatic event as a young child and was dubbed the Miracle Boy , an event so traumatic that he never spoke again and can t tell us even now as he relates his history The book in the first person voice, an unusual voice for a novel Promising indeed.
But then it all falls apart or accurately devolves into a by the numbers coming of age story I call it the American Cinderella High school kid from the wrong side of the tracks struggles with quiet dignity while loud, obnoxious jocks and mean girls poke fun at him Of course the prettiest girl notices his substance and is infinitely patient of his failings They share a common bond of art both are gifted artists, naturally These might sound like spoilers They re not, Hamilton telegraphs the clich s To be fair to Hamilton, they re such worn clich s, it s hard not to telegraph them.
He alternates chapters between Mike s high school life and his present day problems It s an effective device it helps to sustain whatever suspense is left The criminal gang can be seen on any run of the mill cable TV movie, so there s not much of a surprise when the heist finally happens.
This book is a lost opportunity The premise is good but it s a shame that the story wasn t as good I ve read one book of Steve Hamilton s Alex McKnight series This series is also highly praised I must be immune to Hamilton s charms because the book was merely adequate in my eyes This is not to say that he s a bad writer I just don t understand all the fuss.