Review: Diamonds for the Dead by Alan Orloff

My first book for the What’s In a Name #4 challenge counts as a book with jewelry or a gem in the title.

Josh Handleman has just caught his wife sleeping with his business partner and now he’s come home to Virginia to organise the funeral for his father who died unexpectedly by falling down the stairs in the family home. While struggling with the details of arranging the funeral, sitting Shiva and eating bad casseroles prepared by well-meaning people Josh starts to become troubled by some of the things he hears about his father, known as Honest Abe in the local business and Jewish communities. He tries to ignore the claims of his father’s oldest friend who is convinced that Abe was killed by the man who he’d let live in a spare room in the house but when he discovers that his dad’s collection of diamonds is missing he begins to wonder if there is more to the death than first appearances suggested.

The thing that I most enjoyed about this novel had nothing really to do with the mystery at all. I liked the exploration of the way Josh dealt with not really knowing his father terribly well and having to learn some of his secrets only after his death. There was a genuineness to the relationship here where those involved struggled to demonstrate their love for each other amidst the awkwardness of learning how to relate to each other as adults in addition to being parent and child. At times Josh borders on being a bit of a whiner about his father and other problems in his life but right through the novel he is a credible character, thoughtfully depicted and largely likable.

On the mystery front the book is well-plotted, if perhaps a little slow to get going. However the last two-thirds flew by for me, with a believable mixture of potential culprits and red herrings introduced via Josh’s continued uncovering of his father’s charitable and business interests. Importantly for me the book didn’t go in any of the ways I might have predicted at the outset given the prominence of Russian Jews and elderly Jews in the storyline (neither the Holocaust nor the Russian mob got a mention thankfully).

Diamonds for the Dead is another one of those books in which the inclusion of a map would have helped as several key action sequences took place in complicated geography that I struggled to visualise but on the whole this is an entertaining, fast-paced read and I will be looking forward to the author’s next release, a mystery set in a comedy club due later this year.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Diamonds for the Dead has been reviewed at Mad Maxisms

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
My rating 3/5
Author website
Publisher Midnight Ink [2010]
ISBN 9780738723723
Length 254 pages
Format eBook (ePub)
Book Series standalone (?)
Source I bought it

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8 Responses to Review: Diamonds for the Dead by Alan Orloff

  1. kathy durkin says:

    Sounds interesting. I like the Jewish theme. But if there are elderly Jews, there should be humor. Is there? That is always my favorite part of books with elderly Jewish characters.


  2. Maxine says:

    Thanks for this review, Bernadette. I’m planning to read this book sometime, after reading a guest post by the author at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, and his comments to posts there. This nice review of yours reminds me to prioritise. It is good to know that it is strong on character and low on stereotyping!


  3. Bernadette – I’m glad you liked this one. I, too, thoroughly enjoyed the exploration of Josh’s relationship with his father. Orloff did that in a sensitive way, but without getting cloying – not an easy thing to do, in my opinion. I also thought there was a solid sense of humour running through the novel and I liked that, too.


  4. Dorte H says:

    If I had seen this review a week ago…. but I just received a Peter Lovesey books with a diamond title the other day so there is no excuse really.


  5. Alan Orloff says:

    Hi Bernadette. Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful and thorough review. I appreciate it! Hope things are going well Down Under!


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