Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Somewhere, in one of the professional or review journals we librarians read (like School Library Journal, or Booklist), someone mentioned a book by a guy who normally writes adult suspense / crime fiction, and said it was a title that would appeal to teen readers, so I decided to give it a try. The book is The Lock Artist, by Steve Hamilton, published in 2009 and just released in paperback, and it was a great read--for teens and adults! Hamilton is known for his mystery series about a private investigator (P.I.) named Alex McKnight, for which he has won an Edgar Award.

The main character's name is Mike, and when the book opens, he's been in prison for nine years. He has decided he is going to take a look back at his life (he's all of 27) and tell his story. What is unusual about this is that the written word is the only way Mike can tell it, because--since the day he experienced a traumatic event at the age of eight--he hasn't spoken a single word. But for a guy who doesn't talk, he sure has led an exciting life. Since he can't quite bring himself to immediately revisit that traumatic event, he decides he's not going to write his life chronologically, he's going to jump around a bit, so he starts his story at age 18, then pops back to earlier times, and returns to the present again, chapter by chapter. All of this could be confusing in less skillful hands, but it's not--it just makes you want to keep reading to find out what happens!

In 1999-2000, the years central to his tale, Mike (a high school student) discovers art, love, and a skill for lock-picking, and all these discoveries lead him into a life of crime as a "boxman" or "lock artist," which is to say, the guy they call in when they need somebody to open a safe. This last talent makes him a hot commodity with all the wrong people, but threaded through the story of his crimes are all the ways he attempts to escape the life and get back to the one he loves. There's also an urgent desire to overcome his speechlessness and recover his voice, and the communication difficulties he experiences (along with the ever-present desire to know just exactly what happened to Mike at age eight) are what really make you buy into his story.

I couldn't put it down. I also learned a lot about how to pick a lock! (Teens, don't try this at home. Hee hee.)

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