‘The Russian Pink’ offers jewels, thrills, and sneaky characters

Studded with facts about black market diamond trading, this fictional thriller has adrenaline rushes, villainous plotters, and glamorous gems galore.

Pegasus Books
“The Russian Pink” by Matthew Hart, Pegasus Crime, 245 pp.

People, much like crows, are attracted to bright and shiny objects. The difference between the two is that the crow won’t hurt you to get at a pretty bauble. People? Well, the characters in Matthew Hart’s new thriller “The Russian Pink” will lie, cheat, and kill to get their hands on precious gems, proving, as Hart warns, that “All diamonds are blood diamonds.”

The story begins in Angola, when a large, grapefruit-sized, pink diamond – the eponymous gem – is pulled from the ocean floor. Murder quickly ensues, then a little fleecing by a diamond merchant before the real trouble hits: The diamond descends on the world market.

As soon as the Russian Pink goes up for sale, it draws the attention of a U.S. Treasury agent  named Alex Turner, a man who used to (double-) deal in precious gems as a young man. Now firmly planted in early middle age, Turner has an ex-wife and a teenage daughter that make him vulnerable to threats from agents, counter-agents, and determined politicians. And then there is Slav Lily.

She is small, beautiful, and deadly, and Turner is quite enamored of both Lily and her ability to glide through the shady world of Russian diamond traders. As with the most interesting characters, she has a sad backstory and enough pizzazz that one can see her, and Turner, show up in another thriller.

Hart, who has long reported on gold and diamonds for publications ranging from Vanity Fair to The London Times, also wrote the 2002 nonfiction book “Diamond: The History of a Cold-Blooded Love Affair,” and “Gold: Inside the Race for the World’s Most Seductive Metal,” which was adapted into a National Geographic special. It’s no surprise that the information about gems that he includes in the story is not only accurate, but fascinating. 

When Hart delves into governmental black ops maneuvers and under-the-table deals, “The Russian Pink” reads like a well-written thriller. But it’s when Hart describes diamonds that he is at his best. “Light found its way into it through cracks, and the crystal fed on the light, magnifying it and driving it back out,” he writes of the moment when the mud-caked pink diamond is first pulled from the sea. Later in the novel, when Turner and Slav Lily try to dupe someone, she wears a black Balenciaga dress and a ring with a “twenty-carat, top-color white in an emerald cut.” Later, she plays with the diamond on her finger, drawing attention to it so that the stone is remembered instead of her face.

There are times when Hart’s descriptions veer into overblown imagery, which slows the action. He is most effective when unspooling his brilliant, conniving, complex cast of characters. If there is to be a sequel, one hopes these characters return and are pushed to the forefront. As much as this novel is about action and adventure, it’s the personalities that keep you reading.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to ‘The Russian Pink’ offers jewels, thrills, and sneaky characters
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today