The Lies of Locke Lamora: A Brave New Con

Lion of San Marco Palazzo-Venice

I don’t think I have enjoyed a book quite so much in a very long time. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch presents a richly convoluted story that twists and turns faster than a back-alley chase.  

The setting is a quasi-Venice of canals, bridges and distinct regions. The city of Camorr, is well realized and richly detailed. The author takes you into a world where you can see the glamor of the wealthy and smell the desperation of the poor. 

Cover_The Lies of Locke Lamora
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Overall, I found the story pleasurably unpredictable. Okay, I did anticipate one or two plot points before the reveal, but the reveal still managed to surprise.

Yet, for a remarkably light read the author does cover some weighty topics surrounding family, wealth, and society. He shows the reader the inherent inequalities of our own way of living without preaching or ever directly drawing the reader’s attention to the question. The questions simply appear in the reader’s mind like the dressing in a shop window, seemingly insignificant at the time, but persuasive on closer examination.

One Lucky Bastard

The reader might assume the main feature of the story was the brilliance of the main character and I won’t quibble. Locke Lamora is a con-man extraordinaire. He possesses all the intelligence, charm, wit, and nerve to truly master the confidence game.

But even though he is an amazing creature of thought, creativity, and planning, I think his greatest attribute is his luck

 I know that statement seems to undermine my earlier praise, so hold on.

My reasoning for choosing luck as his best asset runs like this. Throughout Locke’s early story, luck plays a pivotal role in drawing him eventually to a place where he can flourish. In addition, that place not only provides him boundaries to help funnel his precociousness, but it also provides him a family. His found family are truly “his people.”

Wth their guidance and support he hones his natural gifts into skills of the highest order and he adopts a moral code akin to another endearing rogue: “Rob from the rich.” Although Locke does miss the “give to the poor” part.

That brings me to the one fly in the ointment I have about Locke Lamora and his family of “Gentlemen Bastards.”

While it is easy to be charmed by these outrageous exploits on the page, and while Locke “risks it all” to save the people of the city, in the process of the book he sows chaos and ruin into the lives of those he uses in his cons. While you might agree with Locke that his marks “had it coming”, there are still individuals he destroys in his wake–who didn’t.

So Locke isn’t an angel, but very human, and for his faults even more dynamic and dimensional.

Sorry, I’ve wandered off track. Back to the ‘luck’ idea.

There are two other ideas which cause me to attribute luck as his greatest asset.

The first reason I will admit is simplistic. His name. Locke = luck. 

It’s kind of embarrassing to point out this little detail, but guaranteed, if I overlook it someone will feel obliged to point it out. So call it a pedant prophylaxis.

Not that other authors have never made a direct connection between a character and a facet of that character. Is that the case here? I can’t speculate, nor do I have the author on speed dial. So you shall have to form your own opinion.

The second aspect I’ll mention has to do with the resolution of the story, which is going to make things a wee bit tricky. I will have to walk delicately around the finale so I don’t drop any spoilers. I’ll do my best.

Suffice it to say, it had to be a hugely lucky coincidence that the very thing which could have seen our hero’s end, instead provided the key to his victory. His ultimate success stemmed from a decision made literally decades previously.

Pretty lucky that. 

So, I do have a small quibble with the convenience of the ending. But, by all means, don’t let that stand in your way of enjoying an engaging and clever read.

To read more about Scott Lynch or more of his work trundle on over to

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