Sunday, August 25, 2013

Deadly Diamonds by John Dobbyn - Book Review

Deadly Diamonds by John Dobbyn (Oceanview Publishing, September 3, 2013, 304 pages, $26.95) is the fourth in the Knight and Devlin series of mystery thrillers set in Boston. The plot revolves around the abduction of Kevin O'Byrne, the spoiled son of a Boston Irish mob boss Frank O'Byrne, who has apparently taken a joy ride in the new Cadillac of an Italian gangster only to discover the dead body of one of the thug's capos in the trunk. Kevin is soon indicted for the murder, placing Knight under greater pressure, as Kevin's attorney to free him. Soon, a beloved Monsignor named Matt Ryan, a long-time associate and friend of Lex Devilin, is maliciously accused of child molestation. A former mafia Don and friend of both Devlin and Ryan, Dominic Santangelo, helps the two lawyers understand some of the dynamics of the hot situation. The plot reveals itself through relatively snappy, idiomatic crook-lawyer-priest dialog seeming to ape that learned at Mario Puzo's knee with maybe a little Dennis LeHane, before he learned to write, thrown in. There are also at least two specific nods in the text to writer Lee Childs and his literary character Jack Rusher. The writing is pretty derivative, devoid of real tension and excitement. As the plot develops, Knight determines that the crime cannot be solved without his taking a trip to Ireland.

Change of scene and flashback to Sierra Leone. Yes, you read it right, Sierra Leone in West Africa. A nine year old village boy named Bantu is kidnapped by a rebel militia and put to work as a slave in the diamond pits of eastern Sierra Leone, where he works under hellish conditions for nine years before taking a chance to escape to Mogadishu where he finds a sponsor and is suddenly on a plane to London to help negotiate the sale of a million dollars worth of blood diamonds to an Irish dealer. Yes, the native boy is now a cool, collected, and competent negotiator in million dollar deals which fuel his hopes of rescuing his enslaved brother and father, neither of whom he's seen in ten years. Not exactly a credible transition.....

Meanwhile, back in Boston, Michael takes time off for a romantic evening with his true love Terry O'Brien, adding an unnecessary complication and a signal of more episodes to come as they spend a dreamy evening becoming engaged. Terry never makes another appearance in the book, probably saving her from some sort of indignity. Dobbyn hits all the Boston hot button issues – race, religion, ethnicity and even takes a swipe at sports. It's probably worth a few hours on the beech, especially if you're out on the Cape. Otherwise, the plot defies verisimilitude at so many levels it's difficult to take seriously. This is too bad, since the issue of the human suffering growing from the harvest of illegal diamonds in West Africa is serious and needs both good journalistic and fictional approaches to realizing its horrors.

John F. Dobbyn

John F. Dobbyn went to Boston Latin School and Boston College School of Law. A native of Boston, he has served as a professor of law at Villanova Law School since 1969. He and his wife, Lois, live in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Dobbyn is also the author of Frame-Up.

Deadly Diamonds by John Dobbyn (Oceanview Publishing, September 3, 2013, 304 pages, $26.95) was made available to me as an electronic galley through Net Galley. I read it on my Kindle.