Thursday, December 15, 2011

Steve Hamilton. THE LOCK ARTIST

We join Michael in prison. He begins explaining his story with a few lingering mysteries. Something tragic happened to him as a child that was so bad, he was called the Miracle Boy for having survived. Also, he doesn’t say why he’s in prison. Although, as he tells his story, we’re able to figure out or at least made some educated guesses about how he ended up in prison. As for the other mystery, you just have to be patient.

After Michael’s tragedy, his uncle takes him in. His uncle isn’t really the fatherly type, but he does take him to various specialist to try to help him, since he stopped speaking after the tragedy. As a teen, Michael begins taking apart and studying how locks work. He becomes really good at picking locks. This talent gets inadvertently observed at school, so some bullies rope him into breaking into a house. Michael ends up being the only one left when the owner of the home, Mr. Marsh, shows up. Mr. Marsh arranges to be the administer of Michael’s punishmennt. He forces Michael to do hard labor at his house. But gradually, he forces him into criminal activities by blackmailing him.

Michael tells his story in two time periods simultaneously. In one, we watch Michael gradually become immersed in the criminal life, while the other we see him leading that life with confidence. At first, I wasn’t sure if I would like going back and forth. But the author executed the plot flawlessly. Plus, you have that mystery of what happened to Michael hovering over the entire plot. You wonder what happened to make him so damaged that he hasn’t spoken in almost a decade.

I loved it! It was suspenseful, and I liked the charcters. I also became really interested in lock-picking and the art of safecracking. (don’t worry, I won’t become a criminal or anything)  I highly recommend it. It's an experience I won't soon forget.

The book is an adult book recommended for older teens. It was awarded the Edgar Allan Poe award for best novel, as well as the ALA's Alex Award.