At the very beginning of this story we learn that Michael, its first-person narrator, had something terrible happen to him as an eight-year old and he subsequently became known in his native Michigan as ‘Miracle Boy’. Although he has physically healed following this event he has not uttered a word since the day of the event. In the same opening sequence we find out Michael has been in prison for more than nine years; since he was 18 years old. What unfolds following this, in a complicated non-linear fashion, is Michael’s journey from one point to the other.
Michael is re-telling his story from his vantage point in prison but he can’t, at first, go right back to the ‘awful event’. Instead he has three fairly distinct narratives that unfold a little bit at a time in intervening, short segments. The first of these strands covers the period immediately following ‘the event’ when he is taken in by his uncle Leo, begins the slow recovery process and undergoes the seemingly endless round of counselling and testing that would inevitably follow such a thing. Then there is a strand dealing with his move from being a junior to a senior in high school and his previously hidden talent, as someone who can pick locks, becomes more widely known. This is also when he meets Amelia, his true love, and begins an unorthodox, speechless ‘conversation’ with her that lasts, on and off, for the rest of the book. The final strand covers the period when he prematurely finishes school and becomes the box man (safe cracker and lock picker) for a loosely connected network of criminals.
Although complicated, I managed to follow this structure easily enough once I got into its rhythm and it did allow the story to build up suspense. I do wonder though if it was part of the reason the book felt unnecessarily long, as there were some things that were repeated in each distinct narrative thread that really only needed to be told once. For example, I reached my limit of interest in the mechanics of lock picking and safe opening well before the end of the book.
The only character depicted with any depth at all in this book is Michael so as a reader you have to find him pretty compelling to be fully engaged with the novel. For me this happened most successfully when he met Amelia and demonstrated the lengths he would go to for her protection. As he described the creative communication method they developed because Michael couldn’t speak I got a real sense of him, his thoughts and feelings. For the rest of the novel though I found him a very passive character, describing things that were done to him or events beyond his control and not really acknowledging his own role in events. While at times this was realistic at other times it felt a bit like a cop out and lessened my engagement with him as a character.
I found The Lock Artist entertaining, even if I am not as overwhelmed by it as some of its reviewers. I liked the structure and the ‘coming of age’ element of Michael’s story but was less captivated by those parts of the story that dealt with his unique talent and the trouble it caused him. The forced coincidences of these events and Michael’s passive involvement lessened my overall enjoyment of the book just a little. MacLeod Andrews did a great job narrating the book, managing to make his voice ‘age’ subtly for the different narrative threads. Still this is probably not an audiobook I would recommend to listening novices as these kinds of non-linear plots can take a little getting used to in audio format.
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My rating 3/5
Publisher Brilliance Audio 
ISBN N/A downloaded from audible.com
Length 12 hours 37 minutes
Book Series standalone
Source I bought it