Monday, February 6, 2012
205. the LOCK ARTIST
Steve Hamilton 2009
The Book Blurb:
Michael is no ordinary young man. Mute since a childhood tragedy, at age eighteen he discovers that he possesses a skill he would never have expected. 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 a talent that will make Michael a hot commodity with the wrong people, and whether he likes it or not, push him closer to a life of crime. Until one day, when he finally sees his chance to escape, and decided to risk everything to return home to the only person he ever loved, and to unlock the secret that has kept him silent for so long.
What Hooked Me:
I found this subtle thriller highly crafted and very original. The protagonist, a mute eighteen-year-old lock artist, is very effective as a narrator. The way he communicates with his new-found love Amelia, by way of comic strip drawings is very imaginative. The 'Ghost' as Michael's unlikely safe-cracking mentor who helps him hone his craft is weirdly interesting. And the unraveling of the mystery behind Michael's muteness is haunting and dramatic. I even liked the alternating flashback that I found worked really well to slowly build up its intriguing plot. I say it deserves the Edgar Allan Poe Award best mystery novel for 2011!
'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.'(opening lines)
'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 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 try to understand me. That's all I can ask, right?'(2)
'This is why they called me. This is why they waited around for a kid they'd never met before to ride halfway across the country. Because with me on the job, they leave absolutely no trace behind them. The owner of this house would come back the next day, open the door, and find everything exactly as he had left it. He would go upstairs, take some clothes out of his closet, turn the light back off. Only when it was time to go into that safe would he dial his combination and open that door and see .... Nothing.'(11)
'I sometimes wonder how my life would have gone if not for that one old lock on that one back door. If it hadn't gotten stuck so much, or if Uncle Lito had been too lazy to replace it ... Would I have ever 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. The 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?'(37)
'I took a deep breath and started. I turned the dial, clearing the wheels so I could count them. She watched me carefully. I knew that she knew everything I was doing. It was a strange feeling for me, and yet comforting. She knew.
Four wheels. Park at 0. Go to the contact area. My familiar rhythm now. She watched intently, but as I closed my eyes and felt for the slightest tiny difference, I knew I was leaving her behind. There was no way she could see this part.'(91)
'There were at least a dozen lock picks to choose from. Three different diamond picks, two ball picks, one double ball pick, at least four or five hook picks. I didn't know their names yet. I wouldn't learn that until later.'(123)
'That's when the whole setup started to become clear to me. The whole seemingly insane yet totally brilliant idea behind what Julian and his gang were doing. You don't wait for the target to put the money in the safe. You make the target put the money in the safe. You get close to him. You get to know him. You find out what he wants. You tell him he can have it. You tell him that you know somebody who knows somebody else who knows exactly how to get it. You tell him you'll arrange the deal so that everybody comes out ahead. You do all of this in such a way as to make him believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's smarter than you. That in the end, he's the one who's going to come out ahead.'(157)
'That's the one thing prison teaches you. You can close your eyes and dream about the way you wish things could be. Then you wake up and everything comes back to you at once. The isolation and the locked doors and the crushing weight of the stone walls all around you. It all comes back and it feels worse than ever.
So maybe you shouldn't dream at all if you're in a place like this. Not that kind of dream, anyway. Don't dream that kind of dream unless you don't plan on waking up.'(165)
'I didn't know that once you've proven yourself useful to the wrong people, you'll never be free again.'(187)
'The greatest puzzle in the world, young man, the greatest challenge a man can face, is solving the riddle of a woman's heart.'(231)
'Now there's a certain code I'm probably going against here. The Ghost passed this information down to me, and made it clear that I should keep it to myself. That I should keep it between fellow artists. Maybe one day, if I found the right person, I'd be able to pass it on, but only to that one person. Somebody I'd choose very carefully. Somebody who could handle such a burden. Look what it had done to me, after all. What price this unforgivable skill.'(232)
'We stood back and looked over what we had done. The panels started in the room where the safe had been. They wrapped around three walls and out into the hallway. They continued into the living room and finished on the wall opposite the front door, right where the couch had been. The last panel was the biggest of all.'(258-259)
... how everything in your life can change if you just do one small, specific thing perfectly well.'(261)
a Minotaur book edition
Book borrowed from my dear friend, Denise N. (thanks!) who introduced me to this Michigan native author!