STONE 588 by Gerald A. Browne
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Ever since 11 Harrowhouse, Browne's jewel-heist novels have been getting longer and weaker--and this long, ragged mishmash is the weakest of them all: part inspirational-occult, part kinky melodrama, with a humdrum heist that's more incidental than central. The hero this time--suave and sexy as usual, but not very engaging--is divorced diamond-dealer Phillip Springer, whose adoring girlfriend Audrey is gorgeous, wealthy, hot stuff with a magnum handgun, and high on the supernatural. Thus it's Audrey who helps Springer to realize that a flawed gem called the ""588,"" a Springer family keepsake, is actually a stone that can magically cure any illness! Yes, folks, stone 588 is eventually proven to be an instant fix for both psychosis (Springer's sister) and severe arthritis (Audrey's slinky Aunt Libby, the billionairess). Soon, however, stone 588--along with the rest of Springer's N.Y.C. inventory--is stolen by burglars. And, wouldn't you know, it's just then that Springer's beloved little son comes down with bone cancer (one of several sleazy plot-manipulations here). So Springer will do anything to get stone 588 back. And when he learns (thanks to an underworld chum) that all the stolen gems have been sold to a big Fifth Ave. dealer, he and Audrey team up with two veteran crooks to do an elaborate but only mildly exciting heist--complete with ledges, roofs, rope-climbing, and magnets. Result? A $250 million haul in gems--but (as most readers will anticipate) no sign of stone 588. Where is the magic stone? Well, the answer isn't hard to guess. But before Springer regains the stone and zaps his ailing son back to instant health, there'll be about 100 pages of feeble, distasteful subplot to wade through--all about decadent Aunt Libby and her slimy major-domo Wintersgill, a psycho who indulges in mayhem, murder, uro-erotics (don't ask), and grand larceny. And, after a totally arbitrary chase through St. Patrick's Cathedral (Audrey kills in cool self-defense), Browne even throws in some nasty CIA-ish agents--who want stone 588 for the government. . .but are oh-so-easily foiled. Overall, then, this is pop-fiction at its most synthetic--and sure to alienate more than a few readers (including former Browne fans) with the patently insincere use of that miracle-cure gimmick. Despite the poor pacing and disjointed plotting, however, much of the Browne readership is likely to be content with the familiar ingredients: glossy narration, smugly glamorous people, high-life details (including shiny sex and shining gems), plus a reliably diverting heist sequence.

Pub Date: Feb. 21st, 1985
Publisher: Arbor House