Robbins’s fifth postmortal work again alternates splendid pulp with thudding prose.
Each Robbins epic features a new venue for bottomless greed. Sin City (2002) took us behind the scenes at Vegas, Never Enough into the secrets of Wall Street and illegal trading, and The Secret into Victoria’s Secret with its nose deep into thongs and Brazilian wax jobs. The mistitled Heat of Passion (it should be Cold Passion) has its stunningly well-written passages (for a Robbins novel) about the secrets of the diamond industry, quite haunting passages of research afloat on a steaming sea of sex, all of it blood-pounding, pelvic, and vulgar. It’s breakfast with a Cartier or Harry Winston catalogue while gobbling a stack of buttery sugared cinnamon toast. Win Liberte was born in a taxicab on the afternoon Kennedy died. His gem of a mother dies when he’s young, and he’s raised by his grandfather and father, who buy rough diamonds wholesale on 47th Street and sell them as cut stones. Dad remarries, and Win now has an older stepbrother, Leo, who delights in evaluating diamonds while Win cares nothing for the industry. When Dad dies, Win inherits a business handled for him by his uncle and stepbrother while hormonal Win devotes himself to boats and “clits.” But when Uncle loses the company funds and Leo rips him off, Win is left penniless, with all his property under lien—except for a diamond mine in Angola that no one will buy because of the Angolans’ endless civil strife. Win heads for the mine, makes a go of it against vastly bloody odds, then finds himself facing the worldwide De Beers monopoly. “Harold’s” grossest scene is hard to choose, though a standout is Win’s pronging the 18-year-old daughter of his former lover when the mother, who’d once tried to kill him, walks in and wraps her cold fingers around his tool: “My blood ignited and I felt the lead rising in my pencil.”
Which industry’s next? Ghostwriting?