The Lock Artist

The Lock Artist

by Steve Hamilton


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"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."

Marked by tragedy, traumatized at the age of eight, Michael, now eighteen, is no ordinary young man. Besides not uttering a single word in ten years, he discovers the one thing he can somehow do better than anyone else. Whether it's a locked door without a key, a padlock with no combination, or even an eight-hundred pound safe ... he can open them all.

It's an unforgivable talent. A talent that will make young Michael a hot commodity with the wrong people and, whether he likes it or not, push him ever close to a life of crime. Until he finally sees his chance to escape, and with one desperate gamble risks everything to come back home to the only person he ever loved, and to unlock the secret that has kept him silent for so long.

Steve Hamilton steps away from his Edgar Award-winning Alex McKnight series to introduce a unique new character, unlike anyone you've ever seen in the world of crime fiction.

The Lock Artist is the winner of the 2011 Edgar Award for Best Novel.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312696955
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/01/2011
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 109,884
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile: HL630L (what's this?)

About the Author

STEVE HAMILTON's first novel, A Cold Day in Paradise, won the Private Eye Writers of America/St. Martin's Press Best First Private Eye Novel Contest before becoming a USA Today Bestseller and winning both an Edgar and a Shamus Award for Best First Novel. His standalone novel The Lock Artist was named a New York Times Notable Book, was given an Alex Award by the American Library Association, and then went on to win the Edgar Award for Best Novel, making Steve Hamilton only the second author (after Ross Thomas) to win Edgars for both Best First Novel and Best Novel. He attended the University of Michigan, where he won the prestigious Hopwood Award for writing, and now he lives in Cottekill, New York with his wife and their two children.

Read an Excerpt


Locked Up Tight for Another Day

You may remember me. Think back. The summer of 1990. I know that’s a while ago, but the wire services picked up the story and I was in every newspaper in the country. Even if you didn’t read the story, you probably heard about me. From one of your neighbors, somebody you worked with, or if you’re younger, from somebody at school. They called me "the Miracle Boy." A few other names, too, names thought up by copy editors or newscasters trying to outdo one another. I saw "Boy Wonder" in one of the old clippings. "Terror Tyke," that was another one, even though I was eight years old at the time. But it was the Miracle Boy that stuck.

I stayed in the news for two or three days, but even when the cameras and the reporters moved on to something else, mine was the kind of story that stuck with you. You felt bad for me. How could you not? If you had young kids of your own back then, you held them a little tighter. If you were a kid yourself, you didn’t sleep right for a week.

In the end, all you could do was wish me well. You hoped that I had found a new life somewhere. You hoped that because I was so young, somehow this would have protected me, made it not so horrible. That I’d be able to get over it, maybe even put the whole thing behind me. Children being so adaptable and flexible and durable, in ways that adults could never be. That whole business. It’s what you hoped, anyway, if you even took the time to think about me the real person and not just the young face in the news story.

People sent me cards and letters back then. A few of them had drawings made by children. Wishing me well. Wishing me a happy future. Some people even tried to visit me at my new home. Apparently, they’d come looking for me in Milford, Michigan, thinking they could just stop anybody on the street and ask where to find me. For what reason, exactly? I guess they thought I must have some kind of special powers to have lived through that day in June. What those powers might be, or what these people thought I could do for them, I couldn’t even imagine.

In the years since then, what happened? I grew up. I came to believe in love at first sight. I tried my hand at a few things, and if I was any good at it, that meant it had to be either totally useless or else totally against the law. That goes a long way toward explaining why I’m wearing this stylish orange jumpsuit right now, and why I’ve been wearing it every single day for the past nine years.

I don’t think it’s doing me any good to be here. Me or anybody else. It’s kind of ironic, though, that the worst thing I ever did, on paper at least, was the one thing I don’t regret. Not at all.

In the meantime, as long as I’m here, I figure what the hell, I’ll take a look back at everything. I’ll write it all down. Which, if I’m going to do it, is really the only way I can tell the story. I have no other choice, because as you may or may not know, in all the things I’ve done in the past years, there’s one particular thing I haven’t done. I haven’t spoken one single word out loud.

That’s a whole story in itself, of course. This thing that has kept me silent for all of these years. Locked up here inside me, ever since that day. I cannot let go of it. So I cannot speak. I cannot make a sound.

Here, though, on the page . . . it can be like we’re sitting together at a bar somewhere, just you and me, having a long talk. Yeah, I like that. You and me sitting at a bar, just talking. Or rather me talking and you listening. What a switch that would be. I mean, you’d really be listening. Because I’ve noticed how most people don’t know how to listen. Believe me. Most of the time they’re just waiting for the other person to shut up so they can start talking again. But you . . . hell, you’re just as good a listener as I am. You’re sitting there, hanging on every word I say. When I get to the bad parts, you hang in there with me and you let me get it out. You don’t judge me right off the bat. I’m not saying you’re going to forgive everything. I sure as hell don’t forgive it all myself. But at least you’ll be willing to hear me out, and in the end to try to understand me. That’s all I can ask, right?

Problem is, where do I begin? If I go right to the sob story, it’ll feel like I’m already trying to excuse everything I did. If I go to the hardcore stuff first, you’ll think I’m some sort of born criminal. You’ll write me off before I get the chance to make my case.

So maybe I’ll kind of skip around, if you don’t mind. How the first real jobs I was involved with went down. How it felt to be growing up as the Miracle Boy. How it all came together that one summer. How I met Amelia. How I found my unforgivable talent. How I got myself heading down the wrong road. Maybe you’ll look at that and decide that I didn’t have much choice. Maybe you’ll decide that you would have done exactly the same thing.

The one thing I can’t do is start off on that day in June of 1990. I can’t go there yet. No matter how hard other people have tried to convince me, and believe me, there were a lot of them and they tried pretty damned hard . . . I can’t start there because I already feel claustrophobic enough in here. Some days it’s all I can do to keep breathing. But maybe one of these days as I’m writing, I’ll get to it and I’ll think to myself, okay, today’s the day. Today you can face it. No warm-up needed. Just go back to that day and let it fly. You’re eight years old. You hear the sound outside the door. And—

Damn, this is even harder than I thought.

I had to take a little break, get up and walk around a little bit, which around here isn’t very far. I left the cell and walked down through the common area, used the main bathroom and brushed my teeth. There was a new guy in there, someone who doesn’t know anything about me yet. When he said hey to me, I knew I had to be careful. Not answering people might be considered rude on the outside. In here, it could be taken as disrespect. If I were in a really bad place, I’d probably be dead by now. Even in here, in this place, it’s a constant challenge for me.

I did what I usually do. Two fingers of my right hand pointing to my throat, then a slashing motion. No words coming out of here, pal. No disrespect intended. I obviously made it back alive because I’m still writing.

So hang on, because this is my story if you’re ready for it. 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.

Excerpted from The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton.

Copyright © 2009 by Steve Hamilton.

Published in January 2010 by Minotaur Books.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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The Lock Artist 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 136 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book! I loved it!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story is told with a number of flashbacks about a young man who learns to open all kinds of locks and safes. There is some horrible event in his past that took away his ability to speak. As he learns about more complicated locks and is sucked into crime, he meets a young woman and fall in love. Between mistakes by his criminal employers and a persistent FBI agent following him, it is in doubt if he will have a chance to understand his past and build a relationship with the young woman. Described this way, it sounds like a mixed up plot, but Hamilton makes it work well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book far more than I expected. I hate to provide too much detail about what I enjoyed because there's always uncertainty in a good story's narrative arc and you don't want to ruin the next readers sense of suspense. I read between 10-15 novels/year and this is my favorite over the past 18 months.
mgolden More than 1 year ago
This is a book that I grew to love. I thought it was a bit slow in the beginning, not really catching my attention but after I hit a certain point I had to know what happens next: How he ended up where he did, what horrible event caused him to never speak again and of course everything Amelia! The book kept me guessing. I thought I figured it out and where it was going but I was so very wrong. I was revoltingly pleased with the ending. The author played with my emotions on this one. Well written, great read. I recommend to all.
BKR53 More than 1 year ago
A childhood trauma, central to the story in all ways, keeps the the pages turning just as fast as you can read them. I'm usually apprehensive when it comes to reading stand-alone novels by an author of a critically acclaimed series, especially one I enjoy so much. In this case the Alex Mcknight stories. But no worries here, as Steve Hamilton has written an altogether original and engaging book about a young man trying to find his way in life. The trials and travails the protagonist Michael endures would daunt most, yet he faces them without the ability to speak a single word, a condition caused by the tragedy of his childhood. There are thugs and evil-doers who all want a piece of michael by way of coercing his almost magical talents of picking locks and cracking safes. His only weapons against these people are his love of a young woman and his natural gift of drawing. On the surface,the circumstances of the story The Lock Artist sound a bit odd, but in reality they only serve to demonstrate Mr. Hamilton's talent as he has seamlessly woven together a believable and captivating tale that's hard to put down.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Although he is silent and has been mute since a traumatic incident back in 1990 when he was eight, Mike Smith has become the "Golden Boy" box man as he can open any safe. He realized his skill as a proficient box man when he was seventeen years old. Since his ability as the Lock Artist of choice he has been in demand by criminals who need his talent. Mike has spent nine years in prison for his artistic safe breaking skills. However even as his prime client in Detroit must never be angered or else, Mike meets and falls in love with Amelia. A throwback to a gentler romantic time, Mike vows to keep his beloved safe from perils he imagines that lead him into a deadly multimillion-dollar con that requires him to escape a locked box murder. As Alex McKnight takes a winter's break, fans will enjoy Mike Smith's biographical fictional mystery; as he relates his tale to an enthralled audience. The story line is fast-paced especially after Mike moves past lock breaking 101 and 102 as the antihero begins to get into deep trouble with his mob peers after falling in love. Fans will relish his escapades as ironically he must extract himself from a locked "box" mystery. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed it start to finish!
Maydacat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If this had been an audio book, I would have looked to see if I had accidently set the CD player to ¿shuffle.¿ Bouncing back and forth from the present to the past, characters are alive and then dead, and then alive again. But maybe they weren¿t really dead, after all. After a traumatic incident that leaves Michael mute at the age of eight, he becomes ¿The Miracle Boy.¿ We finally do find out what happened to him, what destroyed his life and would shape his future, but by that time, it almost becomes secondary in importance. The author¿s style of writing, in the first person of Michael, is quite staccato in nature, which may fit the juvenile Mike but is just annoying in his 10-year-older self. Perhaps if the characters had been more likable, or if the novel had had a definite conclusion, it would have been a more enjoyable read. It had potential to be gripping, but somehow never achieved that status.
Grabbag on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this novel! A young man's life of cracking safes, falling love, and how he ended up doing definitely deserved to be an Alex Award Winner (Adult book that appeals to teens). I'll be recommending this to many teens and adults.
maneekuhi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"The Lock Artist" is a stand-alone novel by Steve Hamilton. I like SH; I have read at least four of his Michigan PI novels. LA has been nominated for a number of awards, and I thought it was good, but I don't share the enthusiasm of the book nominators. Briefly, it's about a young boy, who loses his parents in a tragic accident, although the details are not totally clear. The accident leaves him mute. He is raised by an uncle. Along the way, he learns to open locks and eventually goes from the challenge of opening gym locks to becoming a safe-cracker. And he meets some unsavory characters along the way, and one particularly savory one, Amelia. What happens to him becomes known to the reader in the very first few pages - a "big" decision by the author that didn't work for me. Halfway through, I felt the story was really lagging - the novelty of the kid's situation had worn off for me, and I was put off by all the time jumps in the story. Now most of these flashbacks in other novels leap about 30 years; in this book, the leap for the most part was six months or so on each side of Y2K. Remember that? It became unnecessarily confusing because time and place and people didn't change much in these jumps. And I didn't care that much for the characters, there were none I really cared about, nor became interested in. I found the protagonist a bit dull. There were some good action scenes but they were not good enough to warrant the attention this book has received. And SH, just as he has often done in his PI series, again concludes with a True Love conquers all wrap up.
abbylibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can see why this won an Alex Award - it's got a lot of teen appeal and I'd try it on teens who like crime fiction or mysteries like John Green's Paper Towns. Macleod Andrews does a fine job of narrating, but it just wasn't my cup of tea.
EBT1002 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel, this is an excellent suck-you-in-and-take-you-for-an-unbelievable-ride novel. Mike, our 17-year-old hero is not really believable, but he tells a good story (1st person POV) and you root for him to succeed at both getting the money and the girl. I won't give away which, if either, actually happens. Highly recommended.
ccayne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fascinating - a boy, Mike, who can't speak due to a childhood trauma becomes adept at safecracking. How do author's come up with these stories? I picked this because it had been nominated for an Edgar award and I was in the mood for a good mystery; it didn't disappoint. It's told in chapters which jump back and forth in time through Mike's life. Mike is drawn to safecracking not for the loot but for the artistry; he is also a very talented visual artist. It's a fascinating tightly drawn look at an unusual, to say the least, slice of life.
ktp50 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fantastic book. About a boy who experiences extreme trauma as a child and as a result is mute. Finds he has a facility with picking locks and results in a path of crime. Great book.
delphica on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think this is one of those things where an author who does a successful mystery series decides to tackle a stand-alone that is more, well, I don't want to say literary because I don't think series mysteries have to be un-literary by definition, but that's what I'm talking about.The basic plot is there's this teenage kid who has an amazing aptitude for picking locks and cracking safes, who finds himself quite the commodity in unsavory circles, and he has a Mysterious Past which is slowly revealed over the course of the book. The plot didn't quite hang together for me. It seemed like there were some important loose ends, and the motivation was all over the place -- sometimes things happened for reasons and sometimes at random, which sounds like real life, only they weren't consistent within the internal world of the story, they often felt too forced and there for the purpose of moving the plot and that's intrusive if you notice it too much while you're in the middle of reading it.But what I really liked was the voice, the main character was someone you enjoyed spending time with, and wanted to cheer for. Grade: B, but a very enjoyable BRecommended: This would be a good read for a time when you want something that will hook you while you're actually reading, if you're prepared not to mull too hard over it later.
marcejewels on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
From my blogThe Lock Artist is the 2011 Edgar Award winner for Best Novel. I was completely intrigued with this story and looked forward to reading it, but it didn't quite meet my expectations. Two styles were used, the 1st was the character talks directly to us, his adventure was told in 1st person, this is a style I do enjoy, and the 2nd was we had glimpses of his lock artist experiences which flipped back and forth. This was executed extremely well but for me it messes with the flow and I just don't enjoy this style but I have to say it is one of the better executed novels I have read that have used this style. When I watch the news sometimes I think, why are they telling us that, we are 'teaching' or giving more information to criminals we don't want to have it. This is what I thought throughout the book, anyone that has the talent to open locks etc would surely learn a thing or two on how to improve and develop their skill. There was continuous mention on what Michael was doing with his craft and in detail, I felt it was too much, a little repetitive. Michael was a very interesting character and what drew me in was that he was mute. I enjoy reading books about characters that are mute and finding out why. One of the main twists and mystery was why he was mute in my mind. Well we got the answer towards the end and in 3 pages, really, sigh. My favourite part of the book was Michael finding love and using his artistic side of drawing and writing to her in comic book form. The back and forth love notes were a charming touch and her goal was to get him to speak to her. Overall, it was a good book, well written and the style executed well, it just didn't absorb me as I expected and the long awaited mystery let me down.
dorisannn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I first read about this book, didn't think I'd like it from a crook's POV, but Hamilton pulled it offwith great flair. I truly cared about Michael and was rooting for him.
mkbetcher on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Picked this one up due to Alex Award status. Enjoyable, not sure I would want to include for middle school. Good HS pick though. Engaging and well written. Will definitely try another Hamilton book!
DHealy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What makes this superior to other criminal point of view novels is how it draws the reader into becoming a lock artist, both in understanding the complexities of opening locks and in trying to understand the main character, locked in his own silent world.
magnumpigg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting take on the "Criminal's POV" genre: told in the first person, we follow a teen's progression into the world of lock picking and safe cracking that is teeming with ambiguous decisions and quilt, teenage angst and love, and blunt, quick deadly violence.
nbmars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting combination of a crime/suspense book and coming-of-age novel.The story begins at the end, when Michael, our narrator, is 27 and is in prison. From there, we gradually go back in time to when he was eight. All we know about that early time for most of the book is that Michael lived through some traumatic event in which his father and mother were killed, and that Michael hasn¿t spoken a word since then.Michael¿s bachelor uncle Lito took him in, and sent him to all manner of therapists and specialists, but no one could unlock his psyche and help him to speak again. Michael, on the other hand, can unlock just about anything. He has an amazing aptitude for opening locks and safes, and soon comes to the attention of a variety of criminal characters who value his skills as well as his inability - because of muteness - to rat out other participants in robberies.When Michael is in high school, he also develops another talent ¿ the ability to express himself through drawing ¿ and this attracts a beautiful girl, Amelia, with whom Michael begins to correspond by the exchange of graphic cartoon sequences.The story alternates back and forth in time as you learn what happen to Michael after his childhood trauma and how he came to end up in prison. Each unfolding adds a little more illumination to the puzzle of who Michael is and what he has done. The last two pages are outstanding. But you won¿t know how or why until you make your way through the rest of the book.Evaluation: This is a very creative story. I was a little disconcerted by the chronological hopping (and still don¿t understand why it was chosen as a narrative device by the author) but it¿s a good story, and Michael is a very sympathetic character. This is definitely a book I¿d recommend.
bookmagic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was very poignant and moving. I found Mike to be a complex and sympathetic character. I was so into the story that when I would set it aside, I felt as if I could not talk because I had been so inside of Mike's head.I loved learning Mike's story in bits and pieces as he would flashback. Then it would make his current story that much more clear.Mike is a good guy, a kid really, doing the wrong things for the right reasons. His relationship with Amelia is very touching and the way he uses art to communicate with her was sweet.Hamilton is an amazing writer and really captured not only the character of Mike but the descriptions of Mike with the locks were just perfect. Would I ever have found that moment? Those metal pieces, which are so hard and unforgiving, so carefully designed not to move...Yet somehow with just the right touch it all lines up and God, that one second when it opens. That smooth, sudden, metallic release. The sound of it turning and the way it feels in your hands. They way it feels when something is locked up so tight in a metal box, with no way to get out. When you finally open it... When you finally learn how to unlock that lock... Can you even imagine how that feels?I could not read this book fast enough though I really wanted to savor it. This is definitely a book I would highly recommend. I really loved it. I think it is already one of my favorite books of rating 5/5
alexann on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What a surprise this was! The other titles by Hamilton I've read have been entertaining but pretty straight-forward detective novels. This was completely different! Michael hasn't spoken since he was nine years old. His parents both died then, and he was sent to live with his uncle who owns a liquor store in Milford. While he is living there, he discovers his two talents--picking locks and drawing. How this works out in his life is the crux of his story.The odd time-line was a little tricky, but the best part was the way the tension builds in both the summer of '99 when Michael is working at the Marsh's house, and 2000 when he is in California with his crew there. It's like you can't wait to see what's going to happen in Milford--and then all of a sudden you are in a completely different setting that is just as nerve-wracking!A quick read sure to keep you turning the pages!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kept my attention. Sorry to see it and.