Saturday, August 19, 2017

Take Your Pick


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Don’t ever let it be said that the Reds have failed to allow you to learn new things. Widen your horizons. Deepen your skills.   Yesterday, what to do if you are kidnapped. And today, another lesson that may well come in handy, er, someday. We are the first place you look for that kind of valuable stuff, right?

This wisdom, hard-won and in-depth and exclusive to Jungle Red (J) , comes from the amazing Kristen Lepionka.  If you hear a sound in the background, that buzz is everyone on the planet talking about her new (and debut) novel THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK.   

Now, take notes, you all. Then—hide them.

Unlocking the Secrets of Unlocking

Lock-picking always looks so easy in the movies. Is it weird that I notice this? Probably, but no matter--with a single bobby pin or paperclip, Hollywood wants us to believe that our heroine can get any door open in mere seconds. But in reality, it’s not so simple. I know this because, when I created the protagonist in my novel THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK--Roxane Weary, a private investigator who’s been known to trespass through locked doors--I wanted to get the details about lock-picking just right. First, I fell down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos about lock-picking. Then I ordered an instruction booklet from a vaguely sketchy website. Then, still unable to figure it out on my own, I wondered if I could get someone to teach me how to do it.

Maybe the sketchy website could put me in touch with someone locally? This type of question seems perfectly reasonable to a writer in full-on research mode.

Then I heard about an organization called Locksport International which is an entirely upstanding and non-sketchy group dedicated to competitive lock-picking. Locks are basically just the home security version of a Rubik’s Cube, and Locksport International gathers people together to practice, compete, and challenge each other to “solve” them. And they’re quite generous about teaching, too! I attended one of their workshops and learned all about this delicate art, including things that Hollywood often gets wrong--like that single paperclip I was talking about.

You really need two tools to open a lock--a pick, and a tension wrench. Without both, it’s virtually impossible. Here’s how it works.


Your garden variety front door lock--a pin and tumbler lock--consists of a series of short vertical pins that are lined up in a matching series of holes drilled into the top of a larger cylinder (which contains the keyhole on the front). The pins prevent the cylinder from turning. But if you push those pins up and out of the cylinder, it will open freely. Each lock has pins of different heights, which is where those jagged edges on your housekey come in. Their purpose is to move the pins up and out of the cylinder, a point called the shear line.

But you can’t open a locked door just by inserting a key and standing there watching, right? You have to turn the key too. Hence the second tool. The pick simulates the jagged edge on your key, and the L-shaped tension wrench simulates the turning motion you make when unlocking your front door the regular way. As soon as the pins are lifted above the shear line, the motion of the tension wrench turns the lock open.

So the next time you watch a movie where a character picks a lock, take a look at how they’re doing it. And check out Locksport International for more information on the exciting world of hobby and competitive lock-picking--it’s quite a lot of fun. Here is a video of me demonstrating

To win a signed copy of the The Last Place You Look, comment with your favorite "rule-breaking" detective character!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Ooh. We just did a big story about the unscrupulous lock-pickers out there, the ones who take advantage of panicked homeowners who have locked themselves out. See? Now you can avoid all that.

Rule-breaking detective. Hmm. Isn’t that all of them? Or is it? Gotta start with Sherlock Holmes. How about you, Reds and readers? 

And have you ever picked a lock?

THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK to one lucky commenter! 

(And hey, Kristen, tell us more about your book in the comments!)



 Kristen Lepionka is the author of the Roxane Weary mystery series, starting with The Last Place You Look (Minotaur Books, 2017). She grew up mostly in a public library and could often be found in the adult mystery section well before she was out of middle school. Her writing has been selected for Shotgun Honey, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, and Black Elephant, and she is also the editor of Betty Fedora, a lit journal focusing on feminist crime fiction. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her partner and two cats.

-->

_________

About THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK

Nobody knows what happened to Sarah Cook. The beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton―black and from the wrong side of the tracks―was convicted of the murders and is now on death row. Though he’s maintained his innocence all along, the clock is running out. His execution is only weeks away when his devoted sister insists she spied Sarah at an area gas station. Willing to try anything, she hires PI Roxane Weary to look at the case and see if she can locate Sarah.

Brad might be in a bad way, but private investigator Roxane Weary isn’t doing so hot herself. Still reeling from the recent death of her cop father in the line of duty, her main way of dealing with her grief has been working as little and drinking as much as possible. But Roxane finds herself drawn in to the story of Sarah's vanishing act, especially when she links the disappearance to one of her father’s unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl.

The stakes get higher as Roxane discovers that the two girls may not be the only beautiful blonde teenagers who’ve turned up missing or dead. As her investigation gets darker and darker, Roxane will have to risk everything to find the truth. Lives depend on her cracking this case―hers included.

Kristen Lepionka
Author of The Last Place You Look, out now from Minotaur Books
www.kristenlepionka.com | Sign up for my newsletter



-->

91 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Kristen, on your book . . . Roxane Weary sounds like a very complex lady; I’m looking forward to reading her story.

    I did know that you needed two tools to pick a lock, but I’ve never actually tried it.
    As for those detectives, they do seem to get away with quite a bit of rule-breaking in the name of solving the case. It certainly makes for good reading!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And isn't that a great character name?

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Joan! Lock-picking is definitely worth a try, whether for fun or function.

      Delete
  2. I have got to read your book, Kristen. Going on my wish list right away.

    I have actually used the old credit card trick to get in my back door when I locked myself out or forgot my key, twice. However, that was the simple turn-the-button lock. I usually secure the dead-bolt lock on that door.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OOH, success! But if you can do it, the bad guys can do it..xxoxo

      Delete
    2. It's scary how easy the credit card trick is, right?? *locks all deadbolts in the house*

      Delete
    3. Hank and Kristen, it is indeed a scary thought that the bad guys can so easily break in with a credit card. I can't think of but a handful of times I haven't used the deadbolt since my success with a credit card, and those were if I had to be gone for only a few minutes. But even being gone for just a few minutes makes me take pause anymore. I was horrified when I stopped by my 89-year-old mother-in-law's one day this summer and found the breezeway door to her house unlocked. After she returned, she tried to diminish its importance and said she had only run down to the drugstore, but then she had to go somewhere else when she couldn't find what she needed there. She didn't seem to want to listen to me, but I told her daughter about it, and I'm hoping that my MIL won't be leaving an unlocked door as an invitation to burglars, or worse, again.

      Delete
  3. Welcome Kristen! this made me think we need to change our locks LOL. I love the story of your research--hopefully you'll be able to use this again! are you imagining that Roxane will be back in a series? sounds like a perfect set-up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Lucy! Roxane will be back next May for the second book in the series, WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE.

      Delete
  4. Thanks for enlightening us, Kristen! What about dead bolts? Did you learn how to pick them, too, or is that the wrong term?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd love to know that, too. ANd what are the safest locks?

      Delete
    2. All pin and tumbler locks operate basically the same way (lift the pins above the shear line, and presto). However, the more pins there are, the harder it will be, even though the principle is the same. I did learn that installing a lock upside down makes it harder to pick. As far as the safety, look for something with 6 or more pins, a "high security" label, and (most importantly) make sure your door is sturdy too. The fanciest lock in the world doesn't do any good if it's installed in a flimsy door! :)

      Delete
  5. Thanks for the info and congrats on the book! I should teach The Boy how to do this so when he locks himself out of the house he'll stop "breaking in" to the upstairs window in his room. =)

    Mary/Liz

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! Hiding a key might be easier, but not nearly as much fun.

      Delete
  6. Definitely sounds like my kind of book! Looking forward to reading it. My favorite rule breaking detective characters would be Chet and Bernie!

    ReplyDelete
  7. What a wonderful evocative name for your sleuth, Kristen. I can visualize her shoulders drooping as she knows she has already seen it all before. Will find out if this is true as I just ordered your new novel. p.s. congrats!. Welcome to the Reds; enjoy your stay.

    My submission for our rule breaker is Bernie Rhodenbarr. Not only a thief, but a book store owner complete with cat. Lawrence Block hit the trifecta in characterization for me. Close behind is Ingrid's Fina, sass with class that girl.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Coralee, I love that description of Fina! I'm going to borrow it, but I'll give you full credit!

      Delete
    2. Coralee, thanks! I knew I wanted to write a character named Roxane early on in my brainstorming process, but she didn't totally come to life till I figured out her last name.

      Delete
  8. Congratulations on your book, Kristen! I'll be keeping an eye out for it. It does seem that characters whose houses or offices the protagonist needs to break into tend to have pretty easy locks.

    The only time I remember trying to pick a lock was once when I had locked myself out of the house. I could look in the window and see my keys on the kitchen table. No luck; fortunately my wife came home before too long. Of course I could have gotten in had my favorite rule-breaking detective been with me. That's Casey Jones, the bodacious star of several mysteries set right here in the Triangle area. She's the creation of the wonderful Katy Munger. If you want to check her out, the first in the series is Legwork.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, that's true--lots of easy-ish locks. Hmm.

      Delete
    2. It's so frustrating when you're locked out and you can SEE your keys. That's happened to me with my car keys (usually at a gas pump) more times than I care to admit.

      Delete
  9. This is fascinating! I have an unhealthy interest in lock picking, probably because many of my favorite TV characters are good at it. :-P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, it does seem cool, doesn't it? ANd doable..

      Delete
    2. One woman's unhealthy interest is another woman's useful skill...just saying! (Give it a try--you know you want to!)

      Delete
  10. I don't have a favorite. I like too many. I'd be interested in learning about dead bolts also.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Congratulations, Kristen! What a stunning debut! I just finished reading "The Last Place You Look," and found it fascinating. NOT the Big Bad I expected at all. And Roxane with one "n" is a marvelous character, although she really does need to get a less obvious car.

    I've always been fascinated with locks and lock-picking. I knew about needing two tools, but I didn't really know why. A friend introduced me to the concept of "bump keys," and now you tell me there's a whole hobby industry devoted to lock picking. All so intriguing! I recently installed some new doorknobs at my house that came with a handy little tool to re-key them, and wondered if there was a way I could re-key any random person's house for spite, or for later mayhem. Not because I would actually do such a thing, of course. Just wondering . . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm...Gigi, very interesting question!

      Delete
    2. Gigi, thanks! So glad to hear you enjoyed the book. And yes--bump keys are fascinating! The Locksport International group here in town recently had a session on that but I missed it due to book-related travel, but I'm so curious. Also interested in hearing more about safes...

      Delete
  12. Fascinating information, especially the part about the vaguely sketchy website!

    The first fictional rule-breaking detective who popped into my mind was Sherlock Holmes, although there are so many to, uh, "pick" from.

    And now I need to be on the lookout for your book!


    DebRo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! I'm sure Holmes would be well-versed in "pun and tumbler" locks (I'll show myself out).

      Delete
  13. It's hard to choose just one rule-breaking character, but I get very uncomfortable when Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone lies and commits B&E! (I guess that means I'd make a terrible PI.)

    When I was a teenager I learned how to pick cheap simple padlock with a paperclip. I haven't tried it since for the reasons Kristen describes and because I can't even read about Kinsey doing that without feeling really uncomfortable. LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL is right, Cathy! Paperclip, huh?

      Delete
    2. Cathy, Kinsey Millhone is where I first learned that lock-picking was even a "thing" ! She's a rule-breaker from way back and probably my favorite too.

      Delete
  14. Okay, I just read this piece and wow does this book sound like it is all kinds of awesome. I delayed typing my response long enough to check that my local book store has a copy. I'm going to pick it up today. So kudos to you Kristen for getting your book published!

    As for my favorite rulebreaker of a detective, yes it goes to Sherlock Holmes the one who essentially started it all for me in terms of adult detective fiction. (Encyclopedia Brown and The Three Investigators were my kid age entry into the genre).

    But as was said in the main piece, isn't pretty much every detective a rule breaker on some level. There are just so many characters I could name. Lucas Davenport, V.I. Warshawski, Spenser and Harry Bosch. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Molly Murphy, Jane Ryland and of course my most recent favorite, the one and only Fina Ludlow.

    I've never picked a lock, though I'm sure that would be an amazing skill to have. And hey, tying it into yesterday's post, it may come in handy if I'm ever kidnapped (though why anyone would want to kidnap me passes understanding).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, you are so right, Jay, Jungle Red brings you all kinds of necessary info!

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Jay! I'm happy to provide valuable life lessons such as this ;) I hope you enjoy the book!

      Delete
  15. Now that's a fun skill to have. And could really come in handy sometimes, hopefully more often than the need to survive a kidnapping.

    The only kind of lock I've successfully "picked"--or even tried to open without a key--were the interior locks used for bathroom and bedroom doors. My daughters were genius about locking them when they were small, but not for turning the knobs the other way. Or, they'd lock them, and shut the door from the outside. I had a long, flattened out hairpin that worked great.

    We just replaced an interior doorknob at our farm, where the house is really a manufactured home. Everything about that kind of building is specialized, so my husband had to look hard to find a knob that would work. When I replaced it, I found inside the package a thin piece of metal with an L-shaped bit with a flattened end, meant to do exactly what my long-lost hairpin did!

    Naturally, I can't think of a single rule-breaking fictional character, but aren't they all, in some way? Congratulations on the book, Kristen, and thanks for the way cool information.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, the old bathroom door problem---does that happen in EVERY family? xoxo

      Delete
    2. Oh yes, those flimsy little bathroom door locks! I once put my cat in the bathroom when I had a repairman in the house, and while jumping frantically at the knob trying to get out, she locked herself in.

      Delete

  16. Welcome Kristen and congratulations on your new book, sound as if I won't be able to put it down once I unlock it!

    I actually have a favorite book about locks, THE LOCK ARTIST, by Steve Hamilton, winner of the Edgar in 2011.

    The only lock I've ever picked was the one on my diary, and that was more of a brute force thing as opposed to a skilled picking. I think I used needle nosed pliers. Or a rock. What did I know. I was twelve.

    My favorite rule breaking detective is Vera Stanhope, not so much about breaking the rules of investigation so much as breaking the rules about what a female police detective should look like, definitely not dressed out of Oxfam, slightly over-weight, and living in a messy house full of illegal birds' eggs. How I love her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, the Lock Artist. So0 brilliant. ANd once I asked Steve WHY he decided to have a main character who didn't speak--remember? ANd he said he'd never "decided" that--but as he wrote, the character simply didn't talk!

      Delete
    2. I haven't read THE LOCK ARTIST! I'll have to check it out ASAP.

      Delete
    3. Wow Hank. So that character actually found his own voice -- or lack of. This is a book I should revisit, knowing that bit of info

      Delete
  17. Kristen--my old stomping grounds--I lived in Columbus or thereabouts for about twenty years--so I'd be looking for your debut for that alone--but the character sounds interesting, too--I'll be looking for your book!

    Good to know about the lockpicking, actually, it explains why that credit card/paperclip thing never worked for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, it SEEMS as if it should work..xoxo

      Delete
    2. Flora, Roxane visits tons of Columbus landmarks in the book--hope you enjoy! And yes, the paperclip trick would likely only work on a push-button interior door type lock, which you can usually open by jamming any sharp-ish object inside. The credit card trick only works on a lock with a latch assembly that's slanted (e.g. the part that sticks out from the door and into the door jamb, AND the slanted part has to be slanted toward you, so that the credit card would go in along the angle. Otherwise, no luck.

      Delete
  18. I haven't tried to pick a lock before, but hey! I knew you needed two tools to do it. I did the opposite. I deliberately jammed a lock. When I was in college I stayed in a private dorm one year that had a bathroom between two bedrooms. Our door to the bathroom had a twist lock; their door had the button lock. Our suitemates were always locking us out of the bathroom and I got fed up one day. I took apart the doorknob on our door and jammed a paperclip in there so the lock couldn't engage. I thought I'd bust a gut trying to not laugh the first time I heard someone trying to lock that door.
    Congratulations on your book and I'll be looking for it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brilliant! *makes a note of this for a future novel*

      Delete
  19. Enjoyed your post, Kristen, and your book sounds great. I sigh loudly and longly every time I see a Hollywood sleuth pull off a two-second lock pick or come up with a one-hour DNA match. Not as bad as reading about the odor of cordite after a shooting, but close. Oh, well, sometimes we have to stretch our suspension of disbelief to incredible lengths. By the way, I like seeing some one from the Buckeye State in print. I spent a few early years down the road apiece in Portsmouth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, you are so right, Earl! That's when we start yelling at the screen, right?

      Delete
    2. Earl, I hate the "one-hour DNA match" too! Drives me nuts. But I guess waiting a few weeks to a few months for the results makes for anticlimactic television...

      Delete
  20. Congratulations on your enthralling and captivating novel which I would enjoy greatly. I never did try lock picking and know it would be difficult. My favorite detective who loves breaking rules and would excel at this job is Harry Bosch.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I enjoyed your informative post Kristen. A detective whom I admire and read about and is my favorite as far as rule braking is concerned is Tess Monaghan. Congratulations on your book and I look forward to enjoying this riveting story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, petite, yes, exactly--she's terrific.

      Delete
    2. Thanks, petite! I love Tess too.

      Delete
  22. Congrats on your book, Kristen! I have never attempted to pick a lock, but have been known to get into my home using other creative methods including scaling decks and other physical endeavors!

    I agree that most detectives are rule breakers to some extent. My favorites are Kinsey Milhone, Renee Ballard, V.I. Warshawski, Jesse Stone (who follows most rules, but has been known to break a few), Barbara Havers, and Vera Stanhope. I'm sure I'll think of more as soon as I post this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Ingrid!! Kinsey and V.I. are two of my absolute favorites too. I can't remember if Fina has picked locks in any of your books but it seems like something she'd know how to do :)

      Delete
    2. Fina has picked locks, Kristen, which she does with a lock pick set. I'm pretty general in my description, whereas you definitely know your stuff!

      Delete
  23. Hi from a fan, Kristin!!!! My daughter and both loved THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK. I'm really looking forward to see more of Roxane--and wondering what you'll have to research for the next book:-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Deborah, thanks so much! Thrilled to hear you and your daughter both enjoyed the book. For the 2nd book, WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE, one of the research-related tasks I did was walk around a parking garage and the attached office building lobby so many times one evening that I was pretty sure Security was going to kick me out...

      Delete
  24. The Last Place You Look is steadily climbing to the top of my TBR, I'm looking forward to a great read.

    Have I ever picked a lock, no. My father on the other hand - he was amazing. And he could crack safes. But that's a story for another day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kait, that's amazing! I'm so curious about safe cracking. May have to research that next!

      Delete
    2. He could crack safes? How? And… Why?

      Delete
  25. Now my husband informs me he used to keep lockpicking tools in his briefcase and knows how to use them. Hmmmm.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe you can check out Locksport International together! Date night idea...

      Delete
  26. I do know how to pick locks. My partner Norman taught me some years ago, and he made me a set of tools. What a sweetie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, that's just what I was going to say. That is true true love.

      Delete
  27. Kristen - Your book sounds fantastic! I can't wait to read it. And competitive lock picking? Who knew. I learned how to hot wire cars for a book but that now seems much easier than lock picking. Thanks for visiting today - this was fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course you know how to hotwire cars, Jenn! I would expect nothing less!

      Delete
    2. Jenn, hot wiring cars is on my writerly bucket list! How did you learn?

      Delete
  28. Okay, I don't know if anyone is still reading the messages this late in the day, but I had to tell you all some stuff.

    As I said in my first post in the thread, I called my bookstore this morning and they had a copy of the book. So at lunch time I drove over and picked it up.

    And at 10:47 pm, I finished reading The Last Place You Look.

    Kristen, I have to send along a large batch of kudos to you on the book. It was outstanding. If me writing that isn't enough proof, consider that I got home at 4pm, took a 90 minute nap and a 30 minute break for food.

    Otherwise, I read the book all night until I finish. And I never finish a book in one day! I loved Roxane (one "n" not two), a complicated to say the least character who wins you over regardless of her myriad of issues.

    And I loved how the clue to the Big Bad is in the title of the book. I must say I had an inkling it might be headed in that direction early on, but I definitely had the wrong person in the end.

    I'll be writing up a review for Goodreads and I'll be sure to post that link on social media. But I had to tell you and the rest of the JRW community that The Last Place You Look is the first book you should read at this very moment!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jay--wow, thank you so much for reading the book right away, and then coming back to tell us! I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed it. Roxane definitely has her issues, but it makes me so happy that she won you over. <3

      Delete
    2. Now that--is wonderful. Hurray! What a great story--and we are applauding like mad! xxoox

      Delete
  29. Kristen,
    I know how to pick a lock. Don't ask. Read a book by Victoria Abbott where the sleuth comes from a family of uncles with questionable skills. If I remember correctly, this girl got a lock pick set from the uncles for her 16th birthday? And when she uses it, it does go on about how hard it is to pick a lock.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ok, even though you said don't ask...I want to ask :)

      Delete
  30. Never picked any house locks, but have broken into a few briefcases in my time. Teachers lose their keys frequently. My favorite lockpicker is Lucas Davenport.

    ReplyDelete