Alan Orloff’s superior storytelling skills shine in his tension-filled debut featuring Josh Handleman, a regular guy caught up in an unexpected situation. Josh’s life has skidded out of control with a messy divorce and the potential loss of a business he’s worked hard to build. Now he’s come to northern Virginia to bury his father, Abe, from whom he’s been estranged for a couple of years. Settling the estate and dealing with his grief and regret is no simple matter. First, there’s the drunken elderly Russian living in the basement, and then the shocking discovery that Josh’s frugal father was actually a wealthy man and philanthropist who invested millions of dollars in businesses run by his son’s friends. When Josh can’t find the large cache of diamonds his father left him, Josh begins to wonder if his father’s fall down the stairs was an accident after all.
Diamonds for the Dead’s suspenseful plot mixes grief, remorse, and religion with a dash of well-timed humor. Orloff populates his novel with authentic characters and Josh’s grief over his father and the time they lost being mad at each other—time that is gone forever—is touching without being maudlin. The main character’s feelings about his Jewish background are also thoughtfully explored. The result is an amateur sleuth and solid story that promises to be the beginning of a long, intriguing series.