127 of 138 people found the following review helpful
Hamilton structures a quirky and innovative thriller around a young safecracker- or boxman- who has not spoken a word since a traumatic incident in his childhood. Raised in a rundown part of Michigan, Michael, named by the press "The Miracle Boy", finds amusement in opening locks he buys in a neighborhood antique shop. Indulging his love of drawing or spinning the chambers of the locks, Michael develops a unique skill that will prove invaluable to men who seek to exploit his talent. As Michael tells his story in chapters that alternate between the conflicts of the present and his past, from the days with comic books, drawing pads and Uncle Lido to a stint on probation, circumstances conspire to send the youth on a troubled road. Michael doesn't confide the exact nature of the tragedy that caused him to stop speaking, a fact that contributes to the mystery of his character, a young man who walks a solitary path, making the few choices available to him. And when fate delivers Amelia into his life, Michael senses his one chance at intimacy with another, a vague but promising future.
Hamilton sets his protagonist among the criminal element that exists in the underbelly of every city, the boy a talented boxman who does each job required with professional detachment and no worry of turning on his partners in crime. Considering his background and environment, Michael is a moral, conscientious young man caught in a world not of his making but requiring innate intelligence to survive. Part love story, part thriller, Michael flirts with the wrong side of the law, but only because he has no options. Hamilton builds Michael's predicament like a fortress against freedom, the opportunities for flight few and dangerous. Honor binds Michael to his illegal commitments and a concern for Amelia, trapped in the world of her father's mistakes, a thwarted Romeo and Juliet. Traveling with fast company, Michael learns quickly that there is no honor among thieves. He may be confined by circumstances, but never succumbs to a doomed future.
Shifting between the traumatic events of the past and the challenges of the present, Hamilton reveals the effects of trauma and poverty on an innocent child, a child who is not only a survivor but a young man of exceptional courage. There are no happy endings in this tale, but an example of the human spirit in the face of adversity and the healing power of love, even in the most extreme circumstances. Shocking, poignant and provocative, this unusual story is a blend of reality and hope in an indifferent world. Luan Gaines/2010.
50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2010
This was just the book I was looking for. It's been awhile since I've read a book with a powerful story and excellent writing, all wrapped up into one. It's difficult to write a review without any spoilers due to the nature of how the story unfolds; however, it is centered around Mike, the lock artist, and the majority of the book covers about 2 years of his life. Mike is a criminal and doesn't deny it. But it is impossible not to root for the guy.
The book covers how he learned how to break into just about anything, and why he simply cannot walk away from doing it. It's far deeper than just a story of locks and safes and how to crack them. It also makes you realize how extremely difficult it would be to not speak for any length of time, let alone ten years. When I began the book I was dubious that Mr. Hamilton was going to be able pull off having a silent main character, but the way he approaches it is simply poetic.
There were some points in the book where I felt the detail of him opening yet another lock were repetitive and I glazed over a bit when reading those sections. This is the only reason that I did not give the book five stars. But all in all, the book includes interesting characters, a great plotline, and a little humor mixed in. I've never read a book by this author before, but I will definitely seek out others, especially since according to another reviewer his other books are much better. I am having difficulty imagining that, but I'll give the others a try for sure now.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2010
In the wake of a horrific night of violence that leaves him without his parents or his voice, eight year-old Michael Smith finds comfort in drawing and playing with locks. Though he has a natural talent for drawing, it soon becomes clear he has a preternatural talent for opening locks. At first just working with old combination padlocks, Michael eventually graduates to opening key locks with his own crude, homemade lock pick set. It's a talent that seventeen year-old Michael never considers the potential implications of until a high school prank gone wrong puts him in the position to meet the wrong people, and from that point on his life will never be the same.
Presented as the reflections of a 26 year-old Michael who has landed in jail and is contemplating the life that got him there, The Lock Artist is told in chapters that alternate between the distant past that set him on the path to becoming a safecracker and the job gone awry that led to his incarceration. The two narratives unfold on slowly converging paths before ultimately colliding in a final reveal of the shocking night of events that stole both Michael's parents and his voice from him.
Initially you may not think the technical details of lock picking and safe cracking would be that interesting, but Hamilton presents the process in such vivid, fascinating detail it makes Michael's discovery of his talents come alive. By the time you finish The Lock Artist Hamilton will have you so engrossed in the process of how locks work you'll be digging out your old gym padlock, convinced you can open it by feel.
Part part crime caper, part coming of age story, The Lock Artist is truly something special. It's a testament to Hamilton's command of storytelling that he has created in Michael, a man who doesn't speak, one of the most unique voices in recent crime fiction.
40 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2010
I have enjoyed Steve Hamilton's Alex McKnight series....entertaining, suspenseful,and Alex is always real.
Opening The Lock Artist was fun.....something new and exciting from the author of some of my favorites....
so it could be tough to please me with this one. However, he did it and he did it great. Big suspense and
real characters, plenty of imagination, and a very unique story. If you want something that steps out of the shadows of the run of the mill thriller....still packed with intrigue and suspense...I highly recommend
The Lock Artist.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
I read this on my Kindle while coming back to the US from Frankfurt. I was at 92% when the announcement came on. Let me tell you, if I had a blanket, I would have been 8 years old again, blanket over my head, sneak-reading another chapter.
I almost finished it waiting for my luggage, then sat in the lobby for another 5 minutes to get it done.
Clearly, I really enjoyed this book and will be reading this author's backlist as soon as possible.
(There are plenty of other reviews to tell you all you want to know about the plot and more. I'm just saying that you should be prepared for a stay-up-too-late night or two.)
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2011
More by fate then by design, Mike Smith falls into a life of big-money crime as a master safecracker. After surviving a horrendous crime at age 8, Mike has not spoken a word. He learns about spinning locks at an antique shop in his Uncle's neighborhood. His talent is noticed by the local thugs, who will gladly exploit his talent for their criminal gains. Occasionally, a job goes as planned, but more often, it is literally life and death. What keeps Mike moving forward is the idea of this love he shares with Amelia. Communication is possible through comic panels they each draw for each other, and she remains Mike's hope and inspiration.
The Lock Artist is an incredibly good read, very much deserving an Edgar nomination. Steve Hamilton has created one of the more interesting characters I have ever read, a young man surviving in the underbelly of crime, deeply affected by a violent childhood, yet with the courage to overcome these formidable obstacles. But that does not even adequately describe how drawn I am to the story. Everything from the spinning of the locks to the poverty of his Uncle's neighborhood to the love he felt for Amelia seemed honest and real. Particularly effective is Hamilton's shifting the events of the novel with each chapter chronicling a different part of Mike's life. It is such a dynamic story I could not put it down.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
The story of "The Lock Artist," the wonderful new standalone by Steve Hamilton, the author of the justly popular Alex McKnight series, is told in a series of flashbacks covering the decade of the '90's. Not written in linear fashion, each chapter's time frame helpfully appears atop each page, but the reader nonetheless has no choice but to stay sharply focused on the plot, which is no problem at all: I was riveted throughout.
Michael, the protagonist and eponymous professional safecracker, is well-known in the town just north of Detroit, Michigan, where he grew up. He has been called, among other things, the Milford Mute, for he is and has been apparently incapable of speech, or indeed of sound of any kind, since barely surviving unspeakable trauma at the age of eight, though the several doctors consulted believe that there is no physical cause. As the flashbacks begin, he is seventeen years old, and describes himself as "the specialist, brought in at the last minute to do my part. It didn't help that I looked like I hadn't even started shaving yet, and that beyond that I was some kind of mutant freak who couldn't even say one word out loud." He is The Boxman, able to open any lock, crack any safe, and is the one called upon when only the best will do.
The reader completely accepts Michael's life and his condition, so expertly is it laid out. Equally so his "indenture" to a man who remains nameless other than "the man in Detroit" through whom arrangements are made for the jobs Michael is given, for a fee to Michael of course and a cut off the top to "the man." While the specifics went right over my head, great pains are taken to describe the process he follows when opening a lock, or a safe. [In an author's note we are assured that just enough of the details are changed so that no illegal acts will result.] The author certainly makes the troubling point that "[n]obody is safe. Ever. Anywhere."
Parenthetically, it was delightful to find Michael using a fake identity, at one point, in the name of Robin Agnew, real-life Michigan bookseller extraordinaire.
To call this novel compelling is an understatement; it was nearly mesmerizing. Mr. Hamilton has created a unique protagonist in this thoroughly original tale, and it is highly recommended.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2010
I read this on my Kindle and could not put it down...carried it everywhere I went all day yesterday and today so I could read whenever I had a few minutes to wait.
Michael is the voice telling the story of his strange and hard life: a tragedy when he was eight years old rendered him mute, but the details of what happened are not revealed until much later in the book. In his silent world, he develops a remarkable talent for drawing, especially comic book style, as well as an amazing ability to unlock locks of all kinds; but what started out as little more than a parlor trick becomes the source of high drama and adventure. Unsavory characters realize what Michael's talent can do for them, and he becomes embroiled in some nail-biting escapades. Some of the heists in which he participated were among the most dramatic and suspenseful scenes I have ever read...the equal of any movie suspense I can think of. In fact, it would make a great movie. The jumping back and forth between two time periods is an effective tool for maintaining suspense and revealing the plot.
In spite of the unusual circumstances, the author does a fantastic job of developing the characters and making them entirely believable, yet they are not stereotyped and are entirely original and fresh...even the bad guys. Remembering his first days in public high school as a mute, Michael says, "It makes my heart ache, just thinking back on that time in my life. How lonely I was. How out of place I felt every single minute of every day." I could feel it with him.
Michael's seemingly remorseless bad luck is balanced with meeting and falling in love with Amelia, also a talented artist from a dysfunctional family. Their love interjects the hope that redeems the dark parts of the book.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I really enjoyed this book! The main character, a seventeen year old boy named Mike is mute due to a trauma he experienced at the age of 8. Mike narrates this novel from prison, so from the very beginning you know this is not going to turn out well for him. The novel shifts time frames throughout which was rather difficult in the beginning, but about a third of the way into the book it really started to flow nicely and by the end the two narratives meld together seamlessly. By constructing the story this way, the author was very effective in building suspense and in helping us to get to know his character. What was happening to Mike in 2000 was all the more heartbreaking due to what happened to him in 1998 and 1999. There is not alot of action here in the conventional sense, although there is alot of suspense.
The psychological aspects of the book are so well done. Mike is a "natural" at cracking safes and picking locks, but so much of his life is about being locked up. His voice is locked inside him, he becomes locked into relationships with some unsavory characters... Whoops, don't want to give too much away.
The technical aspects of safe cracking and lock picking added alot to the story and even a non-tech head such as myself found them fascinating. The author did a great job at combining great characters, effective pacing, and intriguing plot elements into a real corker of a story. Any fan of thrillers, psychological suspense or just great fiction will find lots in this book to love.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2011
I have always been a fan of Steve Hamilton and the series that he writes about the guy who owns the cabins in some really cold place. You can tell from my description that they are good reads but not all that memorable. This book is different. It is extremely well written and amazingly compelling. His use of dialogue is superb, which is ironic given that the title character can't/won't speak. This is the book where the author shows that he is a novelist, not just a story teller. He manages to make digging a hole in the ground a completely enthralling activity. This book shows that this is one talented writer.