In Celley’s (Galvez Stadium, 2014, etc.) latest thriller, a man’s search for his uncle’s priceless stolen pendant necklace sparks dirty dealings, double-crossings, and murder.
When a burglar swipes Charles Stanford’s prized piece, the Eye of the Sun, from his jewelry and art collection, the retired industrialist enlists nephew Greg for help. Charles, who wants someone he can trust, believes avoiding publicity will make the necklace easier to find. Greg, a mere college professor, hires PI partners Tina Burleson and Mike Cheatham. On the hunt, the trio encounters all kinds of characters, including real estate attorney Flora Gonzalez, pilfered-goods fencer Rico Olivetti, and drug lord Ramon Rivera. But even when they think they’ve found the Eye of the Sun, Greg, Tina, and Mike may have to organize a heist just to get it back—provided no one switched the original for a copy. Celley’s novel takes a basic mystery and bolsters it with seemingly endless plot twists. Before the investigation has made any headway, there are already potential love interests: Greg meets Flora, while Mike befriends Viola West. Both women have a tie (or two) to the purloined jewelry, as well as their own riveting subplots. Flora, for example, has pending legal troubles thanks to her association with a crooked mayor, and Viola, who’s definitely invested in a relationship with Mike, may not necessarily be single. Other elements further enhance the narrative, even if they aren’t essential to the main story. Pieces of the Hope Diamond, for one, are contained in the Eye of the Sun; the diamond is reputedly cursed and has led to tragedies for previous owners. The inevitable conflicts among so many characters—like Ramon’s son Edmundo, distrusted by his own father—precipitate entertaining gunfights and scuffles, a kidnapping, multiple swindles, and a couple of bodies. Identifying the burglar, meanwhile, is generally on the backburner, but Celley wisely opts out of a big-reveal moment. Greg’s retrieval of the necklace is the main thing, and the thief’s unmasking is secondary.
Recovering loot becomes a madcap tale that delights in characters’ illicit deeds.