The Lies of Locke Lamora

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Lies of Locke Lamora
Scott Lynch, 2006

Premise: Locke Lamora is an orphan and a sneak thief, but one with tremendous ingenuity and potential. He is brought into (and up by) the Gentlemen Bastards, possibly the most unusual gang of thieves in the complicated underworld of Camorr. When a newcomer threatens to overthrow the head of all the gangs, the Gentleman Bastards - and their current confidence scam - are caught in the middle.

I don't say this often, but I have a sneaking suspicion this would be a better movie than it is a book.

I enjoyed this book, but not as much as I hoped to. I think it largely comes down to style, though. It's an action-intrigue caper plot, with plenty of double-dealing, late reveals, close calls, death and bloodshed. It does this perfectly well, but I never really connected with the protagonist. Locke is a skilled thief, con artist and actor, and very little ink is spilled on developing the man under all that. There are moments that seem to touch on his feelings for his friends or his profession or his city, but they never felt fully realized to me. He just wasn't anyone. He had no personality under his talents, beyond the broadest most obvious strokes.

The characters didn't seem to have examined their own lives very closely when we meet them, and while the developments of the plot challenge their health and their ingenuity, they never really challenge their morality or cause them to grow in any way.

Now that said, the world is interesting, the characters are colorful, and the plot is nicely twisty. Camorr as fantasy Venice is fantastic, and the constantly shifting plots and alliances are exciting. In a movie, when you can just trust the character to be in the eyes of your lead actor if he's cast well, this could be an awesome experience.

The present-day story is interwoven with flashbacks that show how the group came together and trained, and while these are all interesting, and many are important for later plot points, it did mean that the book took a lot of pages to ramp up the pace. Some characters who are hinted at being important early on never even show up in this volume.

There's a seriously dark turn at one point that really took me aback, and I had trouble enjoying the book afterward. I guess I'd rather if it had earned it with more character depth. You don't need character depth for a caper, you do if you are writing something you want to have dramatic weight.

Still, it was fun for most of the ride, and the ending was fairly satisfactory.

3 Stars – A Good Book

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