03 September 2014


A few years ago, I invented an Improbability Award for books whose plots contained unlikely or wishful events. My inspiration for this was the spaceship Douglas Adams created in The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The spaceship, called the Heart of Gold is powered by the infinite improbability drive, which is governed by the Browian motion in a cup of hot tea. The absurdity of the whole idea startled and amused me. Other authors have startled and amused me with highly improbable events and circumstances to power their stories.

I think I have to hand out an Improbability Award in the nth degree to Steve Hamilton for The Lock Artist.

Adams' Heart of Gold

This book was on my "to read" list and I have no idea how it got there. It was an Edgar Award winner. It is well written, however, Hamilton often seems intent on slowing down the plot in order to describe everything he can imagine. I skipped and scanned through many paragraphs. If I later discovered I'd missed something important, I went back and skimmed more carefully. But that happened only rarely.

But the whole story and all the plot lines in the story are solidly based on improbables. The main character survives a tragedy that kills his family. He is left mute because of the experience. So, it's ironic that the whole book is told by that character in the first person. Hamilton does that part well.

The main character becomes a professional safe cracker by the time he's 17 years old. Even though he's a social outcast in school, he wins the love of a nearby school's most beautiful. Several people he "works" with on major thefts are killed, but he's left unharmed. His uncle gives him a motorcycle. Without practice or training (or a license), he speeds across the country a few times without accident or traffic ticket. On probation for his first theft, he's assigned a restorative justice project. The guy he is to work for is in a tight spot with some gangsters who lent him money. That leads to more safe cracking work. Later, one of the cops who "knows" our hero, saves him just before another of his partners in crime is about to blow his head off. And of course, it all ends happily ever after.

Hold it. Was I reading a mystery, a coming of age story, or a romance?

If you can deal with the unlikely circumstances and sequences of events, you might well enjoy reading The Lock Artist.

If you read it or another book by Steve Hamilton, write. Tell this little bit of the world what you thought of it.

No comments: