Friday, May 31, 2013

Book Review: Diamonds for the Dead by Alan Orloff

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Interesting characters, perfect tone, compelling story...
Cons: ...Once the story gets going
The Bottom Line:
After a slow start
This story will captivate
Josh makes a great lead

"Are Diamonds Still Forever if They've Gone Missing?"

I probably never would have picked up Diamonds for the Dead if an author I like hadn't raved about it as she read it.  When she offered to send me her copy, I couldn't resist a free book.  And I'm glad I accepted it because I enjoyed it.

Josh Handleman's life is falling apart.  His wife just left him for his business partner.  And then his father died.  So Josh headed back from San Francisco to his childhood home in Virginia.

Josh and his father had a strained relationship at best, so Josh quickly begins to learn all kinds of surprising things about his father.  For example, it turns out that Abe was very rich, although he left his millions to the Hebrew Home, a local assisted living center.  And there's the strange man living in the apartment in the basement of the house.

Despite the fact that it looks like Abe fell down the stairs in his house, Abe's best friend Lev insists to Josh that Abe had been murdered.  And when Josh finds out that Abe has an empty safety deposit box, a box that used to have diamonds, Josh begins to think that might be the case.  But who would kill his father?  And where are those diamonds?

Despite the fact that most of the books I read deal with murder, they usually have a light, even humorous tone to them.  That wasn't the case here, but it is very appropriate for the story.  Josh is going through some very hard things, and how he deals with them, or doesn't, propels the story forward.  And since it is narrated first person from his point of view, the more somber tone is completely appropriate.

Now that's not to say I didn't like Josh.  In fact, I was able to sympathize with him almost immediately.  He's weak and human dealing with things far beyond him.  I wanted him to find a solution to his problems.

The other characters in the book were also well developed.  The suspects were hard to figure out early on, as they should be.  Some were still enigmas at the end, but I still felt like they were well developed.  Others were open from their first appearance.  They were a breath of fresh air in a story where too many people seemed to have secrets.  A few characters only appeared a few times, but they were still strong enough and given enough context that I could remember who they were without any effort at all.

The plot started out a little slowly, and I was having a hard time getting into it.  When things did pick up, I started getting into the story and had a hard time putting the book down.  I did guess the ending before Josh figured things out, but the motive was still a mystery to me.

Diamonds for the Dead is a standalone book, but author Alan Orloff has a new series starting in April.  I will be keeping my eyes open for it.

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