Excerpt from The Heartless Stone by Tom Zoellner, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Heartless Stone

A Journey Through The World of Diamonds, Deceit, and Desire

by Tom Zoellner

The Heartless Stone
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2006, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2007, 304 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Three more pebbles, tossed into an ocean of dreams.

 
I’ve had my share of truly awful moments—the kind that you wish you could blot out of your memory for good because they hurt so much—and one of them was the Tuesday night in February that Anne took the engagement ring off her finger and handed it back to me.

We were sitting on my couch, in the midst of what would be the last of an agonizing series of discussions over whether we should go through with the wedding. The last three months of the engagement had been bad, full of doubts and silences, and in retrospect, we made the right decision; but I will still never forget the look on her face as she removed the diamond and handed it to me. I stared at it in my palm. It was still a little warm from her hand.

After she walked out the door, I put the ring back into the blue box it came in, the one that closed with a snap. I tucked the box in the corner of my top desk drawer, put some old phone bills over it, and promptly got drunk. For the next week, I opened the box each night just to see it, and it made me cry each time.

After that first week, I didn’t look at it again for a long time.

 
There are bullet holes in the garage walls at the buying agency, souvenirs of last year’s revolution. The finance director pointed them out to me with something like pride. This was one of the first places looted. "What, you think the guys before you didn’t get everything?" he had asked the twelfth band of thugs who shot their way inside. This company was lucky. One of the six other licensed agencies saw its offices burned out.

This agency was one of the most heavily fortified buildings in Bangui, outside of the Presidential Palace. It looked like a colonial estate. The walls fronted a dirt street littered with trash and crawling with beggar children, but inside the compound was a tended garden, a television satellite dish, and a Range Rover. There used to be a large illustration of a diamond on the front gate, but that had been painted over to conceal the true business of the place and the wealth inside. Not that it was a big secret in Bangui. This was the mouth of the pipeline to Antwerp, where virtually all of the Central African Republic’s diamonds would enter the Western market.

"Look, let me be honest with you," the director said, about half an hour into our conversation. He was a Belgian, about thirty years old, with gray patches salted through his hair. "I didn’t come here to help this country. I didn’t come here to build hospitals. I could say that I did, but I’m not that kind of liar. I came here to do business, nothing more. But I really think the government should stop paying these thieves and put the money into schools or a hospital. When you see all this misery and the people all around not getting paid wages, it breaks your heart. All over the world, people believe diamond buyers are making huge profits. But those days are over. We’re fighting here like crazy, man. We have to take a lot of discomfort for our profit."

This was after the point at which he felt comfortable enough with me to produce, as casually as if he were brushing away a fly, a Beretta pistol from his waistband, to show how he’d welcome looters when the next coup arrived. Almost as thoughtlessly, he dug out a piece of rough that had been sold to him not long ago. It was 27 carats, about the size of a big ripe blueberry. How much had he paid for it? About $52,000. I played with it idly in my hands while I asked him about the illegal flow of diamonds in and out of the country. He was quick to explain that he and his company were not involved, but readily admitted that it was common practice by others.

"I don’t buy diamonds from people I don’t know," he said. "In any profession, you have good and bad. But we are taking a lot of risks to establish these offices in unstable places. Smuggling is smuggling."

Copyright © 2006 by Tom Zoellner

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    In the Country of Men
    by Hisham Matar
    Labeled by some as the "Libyan Kite Runner", In The Country of Men does share some ...
  • Book Jacket: Holding Up the Universe
    Holding Up the Universe
    by Jennifer Niven
    Jennifer Niven's spectacular Holding Up the Universe has everything that I love about Young ...
  • Book Jacket: Coffin Road
    Coffin Road
    by Peter May
    From its richly atmospheric opening to its dramatic conclusion, Peter May's Coffin Road is a ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win All the Gallant Men

All The Gallant Men

The first memoir by a USS Arizona survivor, 75 years after Pearl Harbor.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

K Y Eyes P

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.