The cat has a bit of a backlog due to the beginning of the new school year. It’s been over a week since she finished Steve Hamilton’s The Lock Artist, and she has read a few other books after this one, so you’ll have to forgive her the brevity of this review. Although The Lock Artist won the 2010 Edgar Award for Best Novel (Hamilton’s second Edgar Award, after winning Best First Novel in 1998), this crime book has a distinct YA-vibe, which renders it different from most crime novels out there.
Michael – the lock artist – writes down a sort of memoir from jail (this is not a spoiler, you learn this on page 1) and looks back on the events that led him to where he is now. Traumatized by a horrific event in his childhood, 18-year-old Michael hasn’t spoken a word since. But what he lacks in verbal communication skills, he backs up with his lock artistry and of course… the written word we are reading.
In a first narrative line, we learn how Michael became a boxman, earning him the necessary street cred to play with the big boys. And, although the crime part is satisfying enough (if you don’t know how to pick a lock after reading this book, then you’ll never know!), it is definitely the most standard and straightforward part of the book. It is the second plotline, that of the budding romance between the protagonist Michael and Amelia (the daughter of one of Michael’s victims), that makes this book better than the average crime novel. In this plot line, we get to know Michael as another kind of artist as he courts Amelia through his drawings.
The Lock Artist is definitely a cleverly plotted coming-of-age story, a crime story with a YA-twist, something which was also recognized by the ALA, which gave the book an Alex Award, an award for books written for adults, but that have special appeal to young adults too.