In 1964 Kent, England, Brian Wilkins’ family struggles to make bank payments on their farm. When he finds bags of uncut diamonds in a woodman’s hut, however, he sees an answer to the money troubles, even after he learns that they were part of a jewelry store heist. It turns out that burglar brothers Reg and Stan Jones had dropped off the plunder for their fence, Venk, and they soon link their missing goods with the nearby farm—and Brian, who’s traveling to Antwerp, Belgium, “the diamond capital of Europe.” There he meets and falls for Belgian college student Anna and inadvertently makes her a target as well, as the bad guys become less interested in the diamonds and increasingly obsessed with vengeance. This solid thriller maintains a consistent level of suspense; even in its more tranquil moments, as when Brian works at establishing a farm equipment import-export business, bad guys are always close by, plotting away. Woods also shows how his characters endure the consequences of their actions; Brian can’t go to the authorities when he believes he and Anna are in danger, for example, due to his theft of stolen goods. There are quite a few villains, but they aren’t interchangeable; as the years pass, some go into business but others, including Venk, are continuously preoccupied with getting retribution against anyone who’s done them wrong. Near the end of the novel, Brian is blackmailed into helping a shady type deliver a mysterious package. It’s an engrossing turn that leads the young man to Russia and into a shocking plot twist, but it has very little connection to the book’s prior events, and almost feels like a separate story tacked onto the end.
A well-paced, engaging thriller involving numerous baddies and coveted diamonds.