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Library Journal Review
Mute from a childhood trauma that also left him orphaned, 17-year-old Michael discovers a natural talent for opening locks. Blackmailed by his girlfriend's father, who is in debt to some nasty people, Mike apprentices with The Ghost, an aging safecracker, and works as a "boxman" on various burglary jobs for a mysterious Detroit mobster. Narrated by Michael as he nears the end of a prison term, his tale jumps back and forth between early and later times in this peculiar career and Mike's attempts to come to terms with his abilities and his affliction. Verdict In this second stand-alone title (after Night Work), Hamilton, known for his Alex McKnight series, de-emphasizes setting and focuses on the clash between the artistic nature of safecracking and the brutality and horror that accompany such criminal activity. The unusual subject, the complicated plotting, and the conflicted narrator combine to keep the reader interested and hopeful. Of possible interest to YA collections in addition to adult mystery/thrillers. [See Prepub Mystery, LJ 9/1/09; library marketing; 75,000-copy first printing.]-Roland Person, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
At the start of this offbeat thriller from Edgar-winner Hamilton (A Stolen Season and six other titles in the Alex McKnight PI series), the book's intriguing narrator, Mike (aka the Golden Boy, the Young Ghost, the Lock Artist, etc.), confesses that a traumatic experience at age eight left him unable to speak and that he has been in prison for nine years. His strange odyssey, which hops around in time, takes Mike and his twin talents, art and lock breaking, from his Michigan home to both coasts while in thrall to a mysterious man in Detroit whom he doesn't dare cross. Propelled by an aching desire to recover his voice, Mike has brushes with the law, flirts with romance and makes alliances with criminals, from rank amateurs to consummate professionals. Along the way, Hamilton drops tantalizing clues about Mike's troubled past and his uncertain future. Readers will hope to hear more from Mike. 75,000 first printing; author tour. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
This stand-alone novel is a departure for Hamilton, who has won the Edgar for his Alex McKnight series. The book's main character, Mike, who suffered a trauma so great in childhood that it left him literally speechless, tries to confront his past by writing in prison. The novel's format embodies Mike's fragmented sense of self. His first-person narrative proceeds in fits and starts, jumping from the present day to his first professional job as a safecracker at the age of 18, to just after his trauma at age 8, to 2000, before his incarceration, and back and forth, focusing on several years, or months, or even a single day. The effect is that of a jigsaw, with both Mike and the reader trying to fit the pieces together. There's a double irony at work: although Mike skirts his trauma, he is always condemned, he tells us, to relive that day. And this master safecracker can't tumble the locks on his own mind. Intense and involving.--Fletcher, Connie Copyright 2009 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
A traumatized boy grows into a world-class safecracker. Every gangster knows that a boxman is the guy who opens boxes (safes) with precious things in them. Michael Smith's acquaintances know that he's an artist among boxmen, someone who, like more conventional artists, is at a loss to explicate the mysteriespartly because he doesn't talk. When he was eight, Michael states on the first page, a headline-grabbing horror changed his life forever, setting him on his less-traveled path. He still can't tell us about it, "but maybe one of these days as I'm writing, I'll get tothat day in June of 1990." Nine years later, however, 17-year-old Michael suddenly realizes that he can unlock just about anything. This skill, of course, makes him valuable to a wide range of no-goods, some of them just greedy, others downright predatory. But it also brings him to Amelia, with whom he falls irrevocably in love. In order to protect her from dangers more imagined than real, hopelessly romantic Michael is drawn into a multimillion-dollar con game as deadly as it is elaborate. Isolated, deeply enmeshed and mind-numbingly scared, Michael will be hard-pressed to feel his way toward solving a perilous, no-exit, locked-box mystery. Readers may tire of lock lore a bit earlier than Hamilton (Night Work, 2007, etc.), but sharp prose and a strong cast should keep them in line. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.