Mysterious Book Report The Lock ArtistThe Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton

Minotaur Books, $14.99, 304 pages, ISBN 978-0-312-38042-7

Over the next three or four weeks, who knows, maybe longer, we’ll review some of the novels, and the novelists, who’ve been awarded and Edgar.  The Edgars are given each spring by the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) for the best mysteries of the year in several categories, but our focus will be on two of them: The Best Book of the Year, and The Best First Novel.  Edgar is short for Edgar Allen Poe, widely recognized as the father of the mystery genre.  Winning one is like winning the Super Bowl, the World Series or an Oscar.  Yeah, it’s at least that hard, maybe more so because novels don’t get written in the time it takes to play one game, or several games for that matter.  They take much longer, years sometimes, to write.  Let’s just say that once an author has won an Edgar, her, or his career is assured, their books will always be in demand, and they will garner the respect of their fellow writers for all time.

The first of the Edgar-winning books we’ll review is titled, The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton.  It’s the 2011 Edgar winner for the Best Novel of the Year, and marks the second one awarded Hamilton, who also won it for Best First Novel in 1999 with A Cold Day in Paradise, the first of his Alex McKnight series.

As The Lock Artist begins, we’re introduced to it’s narrator and protagonist, whose name is Michael, and we learn, bit by bit, that he’s a person of some modest fame and notoriety; that he’s unable to speak because of a mysterious trauma that occurred when he was a boy of nine; he’s a talented artist who’s able to draw cartoon panels and has an uncanny ability to open any type of lock, including safes; that he’s a young man in his twenties, and incarcerated in the Michigan State Prison system.

We’re soon up to our eyeballs in the exquisite mystery within a mystery on top of a mystery.  Why he’s unable to speak?  Why is he in prison?  How did he learn to pick locks?  What happened to him? What did he do?  Why did he do it?  He doesn’t seem like a typical criminal, why is he involved with such vicious criminals?  Question after question forms in the readers mind as she turns each page, anticipating the next revelation . . . sometimes getting another question . . .turning the pages to get the answers one-by-one as Michael slowly tells his story, piece by tantalizing piece.  One of the best I’ve ever read.  Try it and you, like me, will be a fan of Steve Hamilton, and looking for more of Edgar’s Best of the Year.


John Dwaine McKenna