Monday, January 16, 2012

The Lock Artist

There are a few authors' blogs that I read regularly... hoping that they will announce Western PA tour dates or post snippets of upcoming titles to hold me over until faraway release dates. This weekend, Maggie Stiefvater, author of The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy (that Sara exposed me to) and the more recent YA release, The Scorpio Races, posted about a book she enjoyed. So, using the same philosophy that is behind the idea that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," I realized that a favorite author of one of my favorite authors is bound to be a favorite author of mine, too. Or something. 

So that's why I ran out to Barnes and Noble and used my last remaining gift card from Christmas (that is restraint, I tell you. It's the middle of January!) to grab The Lock Artist

It's the story of Mike, "the Miracle Boy" from industrial Michigan, who survives something terrible that happened to him when he was eight-years-old. Something so terrible that his story made big-time news and so terrible that he hasn't spoken a word since. Now, ten years later, he lives with his liquor-store-owning uncle in a depressed part of town and still lives that fateful day from his past over and over again. It turns out that Silent Mike has two talents: one reputable and one disreputable. He's a really good artist... and he can pick any lock and break any combination. One night of drunken teenage stupidity changes Mike's life forever. It's the night that simultaneously leads him to the girl he wants to find his voice for and the man who will take away his freedom and innocence.

This is one of those books that leaves you raw. Mike tells his story himself, from prison, some time in the future. He's brutally honest in his account of his criminal misdeeds, even though he's seen and done some pretty gnarly things. From a first-person POV, he interweaves the two strands of his life: his messed-up life pre- and post- indoctrination into the seedy underworld of criminalia (That should be a word. But the squiggly red line under it in my draft says otherwise). Ultimately, the strands lead to the events that locked him, the lock artist, behind bars--and yes, he eventually shares the terrible event that silenced him when he was eight. I can't totally describe the interwoven time-strands. Because I don't think I've ever read a book that bounced through time in quite the same way, into a seamless ending where the strands line up perfectly. However it happened, it worked. There's a lot of detailed information about picking locks and breaking into safes that somehow never gets repetitive, even though I couldn't understand half of it. Hamilton manages to intrigue with every lock and every safe.

Incidentally, Mike reminds me a lot of the character of Sam from Linger, Shiver, and Forever, by Maggie Stiefvater. They both have had tragic childhoods that cause them to lose their families and neither really fits in until each meets the Girl Who Changes Everything. Sam and Mike both strike me to be similar physically: cute, with shaggy dark hair. Mike is repeatedly called "beautiful" by girls in The Lock Artist. Which is an adjective I wholeheartedly endorse to describe men. Handsome is an emotionless word. Sure, it expresses that a man is well-put-together and aesthetically pleasing in a generally symmetrical manner. But beautiful expresses more than just handsomeness. It's a word that expresses feeling and character. Mike can be beautiful, even with the sadness in his eyes and his broken voice.

Something I've been enjoying lately is the Subtle Love Story. Readers are probably natural voyeurs, but characters in a book deserve a little privacy to carry on their love affairs. I love that, even though we know that Amelia and Mike are in love, we don't see everything of how they got there. We don't have a play-by-play of their shenanigans in the bedroom, even though we know they're in there. But that doesn't make the feelings less strong. It doesn't make the moments they share less beautiful. Sometimes less is more. I'm not just talking about sex here. But sometimes that's what it comes down to. End scene, dim the lights, give the lovers some privacy. And Mike (or Steve Hamilton) gets that. This is where he dims the lights (figuratively and literally, probably):

She took my hand and led me back to her bed.

This beautiful line from Gone with the Wind popped into my head when I read the love scenes from The Lock Artist

She was darkness and he was darkness and there had never been anything before this time, only darkness and his lips upon her.

Rating: 4/5 stars. Original, suspenseful, heart-wrenching. An action read with heart. Now, I'm off to get some bobby pins and safety pins and see what I can do about the locks around here...

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