Matt Keelock is pursued by a posse into the wilderness after a supply trip to Freedom ends in a shootout. More than anything, Keelock is worried about his wife, Kristina, who has her own pursuer. It’s a story of survival, greed and doing the right thing, with a host of characters to underline each value.
Here is my spoiler-free review of The Key-Lock Man by Louis L’Amour!
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A Short Summary
The Key-Lock man is a straightforward story, so I will make this synopsis shorter.
Matt Keelock has recently married a woman named Kristina, who fled Europe for reasons you will soon discover. The two form a bond, but their relationship becomes stressed when a man by the name of Oskar Neerland wants Kristina for himself.
Matt and Kristina hoped to shake his pursuit and for a while, it seems like they did. However, they have new problems when Matt Keelock leaves the town of Freedom after a shootout. Believed to have shot the loser in the back, Matt Keelock is pursued by a rag-tag posse so justice can be done.
It’s a pursuit filled with character growth, tense confrontations and even talk of lost gold.
There are several characters to talk about, so let’s start with Matt Keelock.
Keelock is one of the many Americans at the time that lived out in the wilds, surviving off the land. With a colourful history, Matt Keelock has the skills to survive, but he knows he isn’t immortal, approaching each situation with plenty of caution.
Kristina, as mentioned, fled Europe after a serious incident and was made to survive in America. After encountering many unsavoury individuals, she finds one she feels she can rely on. No stranger to living rough and gunfights, Kristina and Matt make an excellent team for their kind of lifestyle.
Oskar Neerland is one of the unsavoury individuals Kristina encounters and wants to claim Kristina for himself. While he stands down when Matt and Kristina leave together, he is not one to give up easily. He pursues them soon after with a small posse of his own, becoming the antagonist in the story.
Next, we have Bill Chesney, the leader of the posse pursuing Keelock for the shooting in Freedom. Johnny, the loser of the shootout, was one of Bill’s friends, making Bill stubborn and unrelenting in his pursuit of Matt Keelock.
Finally, we have Gay Cooley. A character who seeks the gold that was lost in the nearby wilderness. With the past rearing its ugly head, it seems that he may find the gold, but not before spilling blood to get it.
L’Amour’s writing style is straightforward. The plot is made simple by his style, any unnecessary information cut out completely. His books are often very short, which coupled with this writing style, makes the book quick and easy to read.
Everything from the dialogue to fight scenes is meaningful to the plot.
It’s a writing style that fits the fast-paced story. However, if you are interested in soaking in details and atmosphere, there is very little. When the scene is set, you have a loose idea of what to picture and your imagination fills in the rest. For that reason, some scenes read almost like a play.
Of course, that can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what you are looking for.
Personal Thoughts on The Key-Lock Man
The Key-Lock Man is the first Louis L’Amour book I’ve read and I believe the first western I’ve read as well. I’m happy to say that it has everything that I want from a western story. It is gritty without being over-the-top dramatic, it is simple without being boring.
If there was anything I would change, I would want the book to be a little longer. Of course, Louis L‘Amour was a prolific author, so, understandably, not every one of his books is an epic.
I enjoyed reading The Key-Lock Man. It reminded me a lot of the old Western radio stories, having a strange calmness to them despite the tenseness of some scenes.
If you enjoy a good western novel, you will enjoy The Key-Lock Man.
Thank you for reading this review and as always,
Good day, goodnight and happy reading!