I think it was Confucius who first said “Love is a Battlefield.”1 Wise words indeed. An no less applicable in the realm of human devotion than to the love of reading. Though you often can judge a book by its cover, you are never quite sure what you were going to get. So it was that I picked up The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton. I was in search of a page turner – a quick read to clear the mental palate after some slightly heavier stuff2 with which I had engaged my synapses.
What I expect out of these page turners is action, minimal dialogue and multiple – often predictable – plot twists. I tend toward crime/spy fiction for my fix and my guilty pleasure is Star Wars novels.3 At worst these books are the equivalent of a junk food binge. It sounds like a good idea at the time, you realize you are overdoing it about halfway through and by the end you’re bloated, cranky and remorseful. At best they are something like The Lock Artist.
The Lock Artist is pure recreation. You’re not going to do too much soul searching after this one. There isn’t too much insight into The Human Condition here. But, I think I mentioned up top that this sort of thing isn’t what I’m looking for here. The plot’s the thing and such niceties as character development, good writing and dramatic tension are all icing on the cake.
Fortunately, Hamilton ices his cakes pretty well. His two main hooks are a protagonist who is left mute from a childhood trauma and asynchronous storytelling4. Michael, or so he calls himself, is our protagonist and we meet him first in prison. His talent5 is an affinity for locks. Specifically, the ability to coax the combination from high-end safes. The kind of safes that criminals might want to relieve of their contents.
You really don’t need to know much more than that. This is the story. A kid, adopted by his uncle, traumatized in his youth, with an ability that makes him a commodity among big time gangsters and con artists. There is psychological tension, romantic intrigue and coming of age. The pace is fast and the characters unrepentant. At this point you’re either interested or your not. And if you are interested, I’m here to tell you it’s worth your time.
1 Or was that Socrates? Whatever.
2 Though nothing on the order of what my good friend Walter has been into recently
3 There. I said it.
4 Pretty simple really. We get the first half (childhood) of the plot told in alternating sequence with the second half (adult years).
5 Though it didn’t get him too far in life – he is in prison after all