Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Lock Artist - a book review

It's books like this one that remind me why I love reading. It's also books like these that make me curl up in a ball in the darkest corner of the house, wrapped in a blanket, clutching the book and crying because I know that I will never be able to write something as good as what I just read.

Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating just a little bit. And no, I did not actually seek out the darkest corner of the house and wrap myself in a blanket and cry. My point is, though, that I really, really, really loved this book.

The Lock Artist, by Steve Hamilton. He's a fairly well known author, from what I understand, as I've never heard of him before I stumbled upon this book. (And I'm not even sure how I did.) He apparently wrote this book as he took a break from his main series.

"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 me.
But you can call me Mike."
-Page 3, The Lock Artist

The book is about a young man named Michael who has come to be known as "The Miracle Boy." It was not a name he asked for, it was just one given to him after a traumatizing experience when he was nine years old. He doesn't like to talk about what happened, partly because it was traumatizing, and partly because he can't. It's not that the experience left him physically incapable of speaking, but he just has not uttered a single word since that day in June of 1990.

If this were not enough to make Michael interesting, he also has a special talent -- he can unlock anything. Whether it's a regular lock to someone's back door, a padlock hanging on a gym locker, or a safe containing millions of dollars, Michael can open it. An "unforgivable talent" as he puts it -- one that gets him caught up with the wrong people.

What's interesting about this story (as though it's not already interesting) is the way it's told. The first chapter starts off almost ten years after the events of his story. He's in prison, still unable to speak, but recounting his tale for the reader. After that, the story splits into two timelines. It starts in September of 1999, as Michael is on his way to a job where his special skills are needed. The next chapter starts by telling his childhood, but only after that tragic day. He still can't talk about it... not yet.

And so it goes on, back and forth from chapter to chapter. As one timeline progresses towards the end of the story, the other tells mostly of Mike's life in the summer of 1999, just before the other timeline began... eventually leading into how it began, before the novel comes to an inevitable end.

I really do think it's a great book. I would be lying if I didn't say I had to put it down a few times to think, to calm down, to take a moment before I could get back to it. When I was done, I put the book down and looked at it. Then I re-read a few passages that suddenly made so much more sense when it was over.

Needless to say, I loved Michael as a character. I rooted for him from the beginning, even though I knew he was a criminal who had been in jail for ten years. For most of the story, he's a typical kid. He's 17, he's mute, he's tormented by something he can't talk about, and even if he could, he wouldn't. There's only one person who can even come close, Amelia, the little bit of romance that does not take away from the suspense at all.

Clearly I might be a little biased here. I'm raving about a book as though everyone will automatically love it. I've seen mixed feelings about the ending, but I thought it was done right, and I thought it made sense for the characters involved. I read the last quarter of the book in one sitting, and I currently can't get the book out of my head. The writing was beautiful, and painted some amazing imagery in some scenes.

The only real critique I had? There is one instance where the word "road" is used instead of "rode," and to me it was painfully obvious.

In conclusion, I loved this book. If human were allowed to marry book, this book would be it. Yes, I'm aware of how weird that sounds, but you should all know I'm anything but normal.

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