Assured debut novel about the ethically tarnished jewelry trade.
At 16, Bobby Clark steals his mother’s wedding ring and sells it at a pawnshop. His next entrepreneurial move involves a case of class rings, and this theft gets him kicked out of school. His older brother Jim urges Bobby to leave Canada and join him at the Fort Worth Deluxe Diamond Exchange in Texas. His girlfriend seems eager to see him go, his long-gone father not very eager to see Bobby in Florida, so he doesn’t have a lot of other options. Once he arrives in Dallas and starts work with Jim, Bobby quickly learns that the legitimate jewelry business is no more honest than his own amateurish crimes, just more elaborate. He learns to sell used Rolexes as new. He’s introduced to coke and meth. He sleeps with his brother’s girlfriend. While hardly an innocent when he arrives in Texas, Bobby retains several youthful illusions that dissipate as he sinks further and further into Jim’s world. Martin (Philosophy/Univ. of Missouri), who won a 2007 Pushcart Prize for his story “The Best Jeweler,” worked in the gem trade before taking refuge in academia. His philosophical and retail backgrounds both serve him well in this novel, which depicts a universe in which buying and selling have surpassed or replaced all other forms of human interaction. There’s nothing shocking or even particularly surprising in Martin’s sordid revelations; their verisimilitude is, sadly, quite convincing.
A bleak, unpleasant story, very well told by a talented young writer.