Here, veteran writer Cox (Ground Zero, etc.) presents a well-upholstered thriller about Sir James Hartman, a fabulously wealthy German-British financier of shadowy (and shady) origins whose son Robert--an ivory-tower Telemachus who's never liked his father--joins the search for him when his plane disappears somewhere in Africa. It doesn't take Bob long to see that the present mystery of his father's whereabouts and condition--did he die when his plane crashed in Zaire, as the authorities insist?--follows from the mystery of his identity: the circumstances under which he escaped from Nazi Germany as a child; won a field commission for a daring 1943 paratrooping mission in Italy; faced down criminal prosecution for living off a prostitute's earnings in London; befriended Italian Communist Carlo Angelino (a.k.a. Barba Nera) and glamorous German Lotte Lohrey; and hatched a scheme to form and direct a black African diamond cartel to challenge De Beers. Most authors would disclose this information gradually as the backstory, but Cox presents it all in a numbingly detailed series of flashbacks. When he finally reveals that Sir James has been kidnapped and Bob starts the long, delicate negotiations to secure his release and fend off threats to the Hartman Trust (a takeover bid by rival Consolidated Diamonds, abetted by the skulduggery of Hartman director Frank Stainton), your main reaction is likely to be relief--not that dislikable Sir James is alive, but that the bustling plot is winding down at last. Impressive but never gripping in its revelation of the secrets behind Sir James' actions, this earnest, lumbering saga deserves the status of an unread classic.