Lock Pick Chick

Here in Hilo, a group of my fellow mystery authors have formed a group called MAHI (Mystery Authors of Hawai‘i Island), which meets once a month to chat about our works-in-progress, publishing woes, good and bad restaurants we’ve tried, and a host of other fun topics.

Last week, I had lunch out with two of my fellow MAHI members, Jane Lasswell Hoff (author of Bones of Paradise) and Frankie Bow (author of the Molly Barda academic mysteries, as well as many of the Miss Fortune books). No sooner were we seated at our outdoor table overlooking the sea, when Jane proclaimed, “Look what I bought!” and—to my utter delight—pulled from her purse a set of lock picks!

She’d purchased them online, she told us gleefully, after learning that yes, they are indeed legal to own—so long as you don’t use them for nefarious activities. (As a matter of fact, there’s an entire website devoted to lock picks, appropriately called Lock Pick World, where you can purchase kits to teach you how to become an expert lock pick yourself.)

Nevertheless, Jane told us, when a detective came to her house the other day to deliver some bones for her to examine (she’s our local forensic anthropologist, and thus the go-to gal for bones and cold cases around here), she got nervous and hid the lock picks that had been sitting on her dining room table.

But then she immediately confessed to the detective what she’d done. “I’d make a horrible criminal,” Jane said to Frankie and me with a laugh. (The bones proved to be those of a dog.)

The parts of the lock pick kit that she brought to lunch were a Master-type lock and two of the picks—one to hold the plug open, the other to wriggle the pins upward and thereby release the lock mechanism. The lock itself has a clear cover to allow you to see what’s happening as you attempt to open it with your picks.

After demonstrating the method to us, Jane passed the items to Frankie, who expertly opened the lock within about sixty seconds. Huzzah!

Next it was my turn.

Try as I might, however, wriggling the picks while allowing several colorful oaths to escape my lips, I remained unsuccessful doing the deed. Frustrated, I finally relinquished the tools back to Jane, who quickly popped the sucker open once again to show me just how easy it was.

Ah, well. I guess I’m simply not made out to be a criminal, either.

Leslie and Frankie look on as Jane demonstrates her expertise

Readers: What about you? Do you think you have what it takes to pick a lock? How about if you had to do it knowing you only had sixty seconds before the cops were about to arrive?

55 thoughts on “Lock Pick Chick

  1. My father assisted mother with her real estate appraisals and sales. After spending money on locksmiths to open abandoned properties, dad invested in learning the trade. He built a partial door with a common knob and lock, practicing his unlocking technique until proficient. I never questioned his intent until your post. Now I’m wondering about the true source of that second income…

    Liked by 3 people

  2. My husband worked for a private investigator; he can pick a lock in less than 10 seconds. Not kidding. He taught our entire Sisters in Crime chapter how to do it during the Before Times, when we could all meet in person. Fun blog post!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I think it would be an interesting skill to know! But honestly, it sounds like lunch with you guys would be the best–always wondering what interesting item might hit the table!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Leslie, I guess you’ll have to come up with an alternate avenue of criminal activity. I remember editing a lot of mysteries where the sleuth opened locks with a bobby pin. (Does anyone wear those anymore?) Or a credit card. I never, ever figured out how to do it, and I have zero patience for anything mechanical. A good friend worked at Tiffany’s in NYC way back when. Her job was to detangle the jewelry chains. (If you’re wondering, set the chain flat, preferably on velvet lol). Then loosen and pull links apart gently using 2 straight pins.) Even that was too much for me. Hotwiring a car, though…that might be fun.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was quite good a breaking into the band room at lunch with my student ID in junior high school (as were a lot of us kids). But all we did was hang out and talk once we got inside–nothing too criminal. And I’d love to see you hot-wire a car, Lisa!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Us kids used to be able to pick those master-type locks with a bobby pin in a couple of minutes. We could open the combination locks too, by pulling the shackle tight and spinning the dial, feeling when the tumbler clicked. Doub’t I could do it now, tho.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Okay, after reading all these comments, now I’m thinking the one of our mystery conventions has to have a lock pick competition.

    And speaking of mystery conventions, the Left Award nominations were announced this morning, and I am so proud to announce that three of our own Chicks are finalists for the Best Humorous Mystery category: Ellen Byron, Jennifer J. Chow, and Cynthia Kuhn! Way to go, Chicks!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I’m pretty bad at picking locks. However, as a kid, I used to carry a bobby pin with me around the house. As an adult, I did finally manage to unlock the bathroom door (in my previous place) by using a tiny screwdriver. It was a necessary skill since the kids kept accidentally locking themselves in the bathroom!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I locked my key in my car so many times in my twenties I could have saved a LOT of money by learning to pick locks. Hard to believe now I can unlock my car on my phone!
    So proud of our Chick Lefty nominees — congrats, ladies!

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I think you’re very clever, Leslie, for setting yourself up with such an ironclad alibi. “Oh, no, it couldn’t have been Leslie who broke in … she’s hopeless at picking locks!” Now I’m off to buy a lock-picking set!

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Actually, I have these skills. I’m no Ranger or Diesel from Janet Evanovich, but I’m pretty good. Busted into my old high school while waiting for Ali’s (daughter) theater teacher to arrive during a nasty snowstorm. I managed with an old credit card. Boom! We were in. Parents and kids. LOL! I’m ready for the lock picking contest. Just toss me the date and location. I wanna go up against Becky Clark! Heck, I’ll take all of the chicks on! 😉

    Liked by 6 people

  11. I’m pretty sure I would be horrible at this. Then again, I’ve never tried. But your post made me realize I need to find some more interesting lunch partners! (And congrats to all the Lefty nominees!)

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Leslie, this is fabulous! I want your friends. Well, I already know and love Frankie. But now I want to know Jane! AND her lock-picking skills.

    Since I can’t even make a combination locker work, I think I’d be in the epic fail of lock-picking camp. I’ll stick to my main law-breaking activity: California stops!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Please forgive the late weigh-in whilst I travel and figure out computer wifi!

    FAB post, Leslie!! I would looooooooove to own my own set of lock picks!. In fact, when quarantine hit, my son dove deep into lock-picking research and spent quite a bit of time learning the “trade” with only rudimentary tools. It was fascinating! I think I would fumble at lock-picking, especially if the police were nearby, but I secretly aspire to have proficiency, if only for bookish research.


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