Title: The Lock Artist
Author: Steve Hamilton
Publisher: St. Martin’s Minotaur
Quick Review: 4 stars (out of 5)
Why I Read It: I have been a fan of Hamilton’s running mystery series about Alex McKnight, a retired cop living up in the UP. I originally started reading them after my parents became Yoopers for a while.
Where I Obtained the Book: Through my local library.
Synopsis: 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 800-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 closer 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.
Review: Hamilton has tried a standalone before, 2007’s Nightwork, which was okay but the plot was a little too unrealistic for me. I really just wanted more McKnight. So I began this one with a little trepidation, but in good faith in Hamilton’s skill.
You know what, this book, and especially this character, ROCKED. Michael was a victim of a vicious domestic abuse attack as a child which has rendered him speechless. So other talents come forth that enable him to interact with his world, mainly his art and an uncanny ability to crack locks. Of course this latter skill with the safes attracts an interesting and somewhat dangerous class of associate.
All in all he is a very flawed, but extremely interesting character. Plus there is all the nerd boy information on safe cracking and home invasion that was just fascinating. It also delves into what makes a bad team versus a good team. What is true for thieves is also true for any work situation. When stress levels rise, you have got to count on your partners. Ultimately the surrounding plot demonstrates very clearly how lack of trust and disloyalty can bring down any organization, regardless of how powerful it may be.
I really hope Hamilton explores this character further. It is the first time in a long time the protagonists outshone the crime in a mystery book.
Author Biography: Born and raised in Detroit, Steve Hamilton graduated from the University of Michigan where he won the prestigious Hopwood Award for fiction. In 2006, he won the Michigan Author Award for his outstanding body of work. His novels have won numerous awards and media acclaim beginning with the very first in the Alex McKnight series, A Cold Day in Paradise, which won the Private Eye Writers of America/St. Martin's Press Award for Best First Mystery by an Unpublished Writer. Once published, it went on to win the MWA Edgar and the PWA Shamus Awards for Best First Novel, and was short-listed for the Anthony and Barry Awards. The awards didn't stop there but he's too modest to crow about them. Hamilton currently works for IBM in upstate New York where he lives with his wife Julia and their two children.