2.5 out of 5 stars
A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.
It is amazing to think that diamonds are made from the same stuff that you use on a barbeque. One is a black crumbly material that is utterly opaque, the other is a sparkling clear gemstone that allows rays of light to pass through while the internal structure reflects, refracts and disperses that light helping them shine brilliantly. Not only are they both forms of carbon, but they do both burn…
The majority of diamonds in the world have come out of Southern Africa and since 1888 it has been controlled by the global monopoly that is De Beers. They have controlled the market by limiting the availability of diamonds, buying up excess stock, flooding the market to reduce prices and damaging competitors as well as other methods of price-fixing.
They are not particularly great to their employees either, not only do they work in some pretty tough conditions and the company takes vast personal liberties to ensure that they are not stealing any of the product, but they only pay them the minuscule amount of 0.00019% of the final sale value of the precious stone that they have found. No wonder the methods of smuggling rough diamonds from the areas and novel and original, from sockets at the rear of false eyes, inserting them in various parts of the anatomy and by using homing pigeons.
It is the pigeons that are the lead-in story that is threaded about the book, he first meets with someone who he calls Msizi and his bird called Bartholomew. This pigeon is Msizi’s opportunity to smuggle diamonds from the mines to his home and bring a little hope to him and his family. Like with all of the methods that the smugglers use, the company comes down very hard of those that seek to steal from them and the policy is to shoot any birds they see.
This lead is the beginning to, Frank finding out more about just how the company operates, and he speaks to oppressed workers to some of the armed heavies that patrols the company lands. What he really wants to do though is meet the almost mythical Mr Lester, the all-seeing and all-knowing De Beers executive whose reputation is legendary among smugglers and company men alike.
I have mixed feelings about this book. I thought that parts of it were really well written, atmospheric and occasionally terrifying. I didn’t think that his personal story should have been in there. It felt like it was added to add the ‘personal interest’ element that editors feel should be there. There was enough in the stories that he did pick up on though to have a still made it a decent book. To begin with, it feels like the criminals are the smugglers who are trying to make a little more money for themselves and their families. But it ends up with the company looking like the real criminals in the end.