the lock artist


Author: Hamilton, Steve

Title: The Lock Artist: A Novel

Genre: Crime Fiction, Thriller, Romance

Publication Date: 2009

Number of Pages:  304

Geographical Setting: Milford, Michigan and both coasts

Time Period: From 1991 to the present

Series: Not as of this writing

Plot Summary:  In a first person narrative, 18-year-old Mike imparts to the reader that a traumatic experience when he was 8-years-old has left him unable to speak.  He also reveals that a unique talent for picking locks has brought him into association with unsavory characters and resulted in his current wardrobe, an orange jumpsuit. He wants to unburden himself of his story, revealing a journey that takes him from his Michigan home to both coasts, while working for a mysterious boss in Detroit whom he is warned never to cross. Mike longs to find his voice and reconnect with his one true love, Amelia, with whom he shares an artistic talent for drawing.  Hamilton drops clues about Mike’s childhood trauma throughout the book, which contains a lot of research about safecracking, sign language and the effects of childhood trauma on the human psyche.  Will Mike dare to escape prison using his special skills?

Subject Headings: Lock picking fiction, Criminals fiction, Mystery fiction

Appeal:  deliberate, bittersweet, candid, dangerous, earnest, melancholy, unpretentious, intriguing, lifelike, character-centered, flashbacks, plot twists, frank, well-researched, direct

3 terms that best describe this book: non-linear, tantalizing, well-researched

3 relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Boxman: A Professional Thief’s Journey by William J. Chambliss

Written by a professor of sociology at the George Washington University and past president of the American Society of Criminology and the Society for the Study of Social Problems, this book offers insight into why someone becomes a professional thief.

Catch Me If You Can: the amazing true story of the youngest and most daring con man in the history of fun and profit by Frank W. Abagnale, Jr., with Stan Redding

This book is similar to Mike’s story in that Abagnale leaves home at a young age to pursue a criminal lifestyle because of a disrupted home life.

The Untouched Key: Tracing Childhood Trauma in Creativity and Destructiveness by Alice Miller

Following a childhood trauma, Michael becomes a gifted boxman and visual artist. This book connects childhood trauma to adult creativity and injurious behavior.

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Nobody’s Safe by Richard Steinberg

This is a story about a master thief who finds himself in great danger after a murder occurs while he is burglarizing an apartment. He finds what the murderers wanted, in the apartment’s safe.  Like Mike, he finds himself involved in something bigger than his own not quite legal goals.

The ha-ha: a novel by Dave King

In a similar theme to The Lock Artist, the protagonist is mute but finds a way to reconnect with life through his high school sweetheart.

Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers

Like The Lock Artist, this story is told by a teenaged first person narrator who is dealing with life in the justice system.

Rosemary Sullivan


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