La Plante’s first international thriller, this about a charismatic villain’s scheme to steal Britain’s Crown Jewels.
Like Richard Corey, Edward de Jersey glitters when he walks. All the worldly prizes are his: beautiful wife, two adoring daughters, respect from his colleagues, loyalty from his friends, and many, many millions of pounds in his exchequer. He also has a racehorse, a truly great racehorse, to whom he has given his heart. Here’s de Jersey, then, at his zenith, at Ascot, rooting Royal Flush to an easy win, a period when life could hardly be sweeterexcept for this dot-com disaster lurking just around the corner. Foolish investing, a stunningly unexpected betrayal, and suddenly, incredibly, the glitter transmutes to dross. For de Jersey, the drastically changed, impoverished situation is intolerable, and now we learn that his castle was built on larcenous sand. No authentic aristo de Jersey, but in fact a bookie’s son (even the “de” is fake) who financed his life style by a series of remarkably daring and richly rewarding robberies. Well, what was once done successfully can be repeated, he decides—never mind that his criminal past is 20 years old. The scheme takes shape, grandiose, inspired, and terrifying—to those former associates that he sets about recruiting. Their light-fingered skills have blunted, they point out to an obdurate de Jersey, who refuses to be deterred by time’s inroads. As he always could, he dazzles them, dangling the hundred-carat Koh-i-noor diamond as bait. Persuaded, albeit reluctantly, they sign on for a final bravura criminal act. To reveal what happens next would be similarly criminal.
La Plante (Cold Heart, 1999, etc.) injects an enlivening, much-needed spark, restoring the mistreated caper novel to escape literature respectability. Irresistible rascal, irresistible yarn.