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Locke and Keye (Dark Victoriana Collection Book 2) Kindle Edition
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The idea of family is one of the main themes of the book: that family can damage you in ways you never thought possible, and how this vulnerability can be exploited for wicked purposes. Mr Locke, the father-figure who binds the five men to him, creates a cultish atmosphere in the locksmiths. This has consequences none bar Mr Locke and perhaps John can forsee. His plans for his Locke and Keye business and its family seem to be doom-laden and monstrous. A family out of balance with tradition or expectation is a wonderful theme that ties this book with the author's first book, Anatomy of a Darkened Heart.
But it is Jude, a creepy, psychotic young man who will do anything it takes to please Mr Locke, whom he reveres as some kind of god, lies at the heart of this novel. He is a wonderful character; and Stratos, whose greatest strength as a writer lies in her ability to peel away the decrepit layers of her damaged characters' psyche, does an excellent job of displaying the complexity of Jude's gradual descent into further madness. He is a truly compelling and believable character. His motivations for attempting to make tenuous contact with a young girl were for me the most chilling parts of the book, beautifully and disturbingly played through a brilliant scene in Love's Bloom flower shop. Wow, what an excellent scene that was! Oddly sweet yet full of menace. Jude is one of those characters you'll love to follow. He reminded me of a child-like Raskolnikov. In fact I would make clear comparisons between this book and Crime and Punishment. Bad acts are perpetrated for a higher moral purpose.
In the aforementioned scene in the flower shop we are also treated to another of the author's strengths: symbolism, carefully chosen, which resonates both narratively and psychologically. The novel is soaked in symbolism, be it a Henbane flower, an intricate lock, the uniform they are made to wear, or Mr Locke's house. I also loved the way the footmen seemed to emerge from the walls to serve the food. It reminded me of the surrealism of La Belle et la Bête: the arms coming out the walls clutching candelabras.
If you loved Anatomy of a Darkened Heart as much as I did then you must read Locke and Keye. But it doesn't matter if you haven't read Anatomy either, because this is a separate story and is wonderful in its own right. The prose is clear and concise and precisely measured: each word choice and sentence structure is well-thought-out. The themes are interesting and executed through effective drama. But most of all the quality of the story - that is all from a male point of view, that there is no clear good and evil, the excellent and perspective-changing denouement, and the originality of the story - makes this a novel I highly recommend.
The initiation is so insidious even the reader has to take a step back and think things through before they see what he is up to. This story is crafted so expertly that the true extent of the depravity is hidden until the very end. Even when you think it's revealed, there's another layer. And another layer. And you're left wondering just how far will this man go to protect his "family"? And what will his new family do to protect him? And why is he really doing all of this? Mr Locke holds the key to it all, and he's very good at keeping secrets.
Locke and Keye centers around a locksmith shop in the Victorian era and the men who work there. The relationships they develop with each other allows them to justify increasingly odd requests by the owner of the shop. I couldn't put the book down and finished it within 24 hours!