A TV writer and a banker try to return priceless diamonds to their rightful owners while neo-Nazi dealers in stolen merchandise pursue them in this romantic suspense novel.
Hallelujah Weiss is facing a bitter divorce—just like Pollyanna “Polly” Winthrop, the protagonist on the soap opera As the Planet Spins, for which she writes. Determined to spend as much of her philandering husband’s money as possible before he marries his secretary, Hallelujah boards a flight to Florence, Italy. Her friendly, attractive seatmate, Alexander Stone, hands her a package and then disappears for the rest of the flight. They finally meet again in Rome, and Hallelujah soon finds herself following the hedge fund trader to Switzerland to uncover the mystery of the diamonds in the package he gave her. It turns out that Alexander had discovered them hidden in his newly purchased home in Berlin. On his property, an unknown benefactor had placed plaques, or “stumble stones,” commemorating the original owners, the Hirschfeld family, who were sent to Auschwitz in 1943. Unbeknownst to Hallelujah and Alexander, a Hirschfeld survivor had a son with the SS officer who arrested the family; now, that son is a Nazi sympathizer who’s after the diamonds. Along the way, the story intersperses snippets of Hallelujah’s TV scripts, which she continues to write. As she’s pursued by modern-day dealers in art and jewels stolen from Holocaust victims, she tries to act as the fearless, vivacious Pollyanna would while also resisting falling in love with Alexander. One may simply count the romance-genre tropes—travel, a handsome stranger, a mystery package, an innocent embroiled in international intrigue, and a writer living vicariously through more colorful characters—and be able to predict most of this story. The dialogue and exposition are repetitive, as if scenes are following commercial breaks, and the Pollyanna segues further slow the pace. However, Baron (Sixth Sense, 2015, etc.) does make a few poignant points about how the international community looked away as lower-echelon Nazis remained free to sell treasures stolen from Jewish families and about how a Holocaust survivor’s appetite for vengeance has unintended consequences for the next generation.
A romance with a clichéd premise but some political and emotional depth.