Book Review: The Lock Artist – by Steve Hamilton

Place an exotic protagonist into the middle of us, in suburban Los Angeles, in downtown Detroit, places where we all find ourselves in our daily lives, and tell an outlandish and refreshingly unexpected story. That is The Lock Artist, a captivating story, expertly told.

I wanted to read the book without stopping. It’s narrated in the first person, by Mike, a high school kid with a mysterious secret past that resulted in his not being able to speak, and with an unusual skill of being able to pick and open any lock.

The language is extremely simple. Short sentences, like the kid would think. Reading the story I heard Mike thinking and saw him writing it down. Reminiscent of Catcher in the Rye, Mike tells his life story in his own unique way.

Why was the drummer in Günther Grass’ The Tin Drum a dwarf? Why was Trudi Montag, the hero in Ursula Hegi’s Stones from the River a dwarf? Why was Mike in Steve Hamilton’s The Lock Artist a mute? It makes for a contrast. We like the freaky, the different, and the refreshing perspective of a person whose outlook on life and on all of us around them is truly different from our own. Throw in the exotic world of thievery and brutal crime, and the clash is perfect to make for an excellent plot.

And be warned: After reading The Lock Artist, you’ll be digging through the hardware drawer in the bottom of the kitchen cabinets to find that old combination lock that is now useless because you forgot the combination, and you’ll be sure that you learned enough that you can crack it now.

Rating: ***

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