Heart of Diamonds

A Novel of Scandal, Love and Death in the Congo

Christian - Fiction
352 Pages
Reviewed on 09/03/2009
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Anne Boling for Readers' Favorite

Dave Donelson brings his expertise as a journalist to his first novel, Heart of Diamonds. Donelson takes readers deep into the heart of government corruption. Journalist Valerie Grey discovers a link between a televangelist, the White House, and the President of Congo in a diamond smuggling deal. The governments do not want the situation made known and will go to any lengths to stop her from making the plot public.

Heart of Diamonds has something for almost every reader: a touch of romance, suspense, and intrigue; this is an action-packed thriller. Donnelson captured my attention early in this tale, and he held my attention to the very last page. His inspiration for Heart of Diamonds came from an article concerning a televangelist. He wants people to know the plight of the people in Congo. This is not a quick read or an easy read, but it is an excellent read.


This book offers both intricate, exciting action and compelling, well-drawn characters. The plot includes diamond smuggling, civil war in the Congo, intrigue that involves the White House, and a magnificent chase along crocodile-infested rivers, through raging gun battles, and into the sky in armed helicopters. There's enough sometimes-bloody action and intense suspense to please the most demanding thriller addict.

But there are also great characters who make Heart of Diamonds a good read for those who want to know why the bullets are flying and the diamond smuggling scheme must be revealed. The heroine, Valerie Grey, is a star TV reporter whose career hits a dead end just about the same time as her boyfriend and mentor, David Powell, decides they should get married. The problem is, Valerie isn't really sure she wants to marry David. Those internal conflicts run throughout the book, giving Valerie's character something to think about when she isn't dodging bullets and facing down bad guys.

The situation become more complicated when Valerie encounters Jaime Talon, a cynically altruistic doctor who runs a money-starved clinic near the diamond mine in the Congo village of Mai-Munene. Dr. Talon is actually the first character you meet in the book and his treatment of a child soldier, showdown with a guerrilla fighter, and run-in with the book's main bad guy, missionary Thomas Alben, give you fine insights into his life and character.

The two of them discover a diamond smuggling scheme that involves an American televangelist with ties to the White House. When the Congo civil war reaches fever pitch, Valerie Grey races to expose the scheme as American troops start pouring into the country. The Congolese army, the televangelist's minions, and even CIA-like assassins sent by the White House try to stop her while the countryside erupts in war around them.

Between the high-concept suspense, steamy love triangle, and action-packed portrayal of the Congo, Heart of Diamonds makes a great read.

Beth Fehlbaum

I agree with Nora. Heart of Diamonds is a fantastic ride, cinematic in nature. It's timely as well, and I hope a movie is forthcoming!

Harvy Karp

This well-plotted thriller starts with a rebel attack on a Congolese village as told by a boy soldier who was captured and pressed into service in the raid. His tale sets the book's tone, which builds slowly to a high-octane finish.

The action and suspense centers around a diamond smuggling scheme uncovered by TV reporter Valerie Grey. Hatched by missionary Thomas Alben, who runs a diamond mine owned by American televangelist Gary Peterson. Peterson is in cahoots with the President of the Congo, but doesn't mind skimming some of the mine's profits, when Alben comes up with the idea of smuggling raw diamonds into the U.S. inside little dolls.

The slimy preachers use some of the diamonds to bribe a White House aide to recommend a U.S. military mission to the Congo supposedly to support Messime's government, but actually to protect the diamond mine. When Grey goes to the Congo to cover the action, she stumbles upon the smuggling scheme. She tries to get the story on air but the missionary, the Congolese army, even a Terminator-type secret agent sent by the White Hous try to stop her. It all happens in the middle of a civil war, which provides some horrible background scenery and complicates Grey's struggle to get away.

Grey has help along the way, from Jaime Talon, an altruistic doctor who runs a clinic in the village where the mine is located. A romance blooms between them. Even with all the fights, raids, battles, chase scenes along crocodile-infested rivers and over refugee-clogged roads, the story is fast-paced with the romance allowing the reader to breathe as it unfolds. It will make a great screenplay.

Betty R. Crumpton

Valerie Grey, the heroine of Heart of Diamonds, is one of the more nuanced characters in a popular novel. She's brave and not afraid to confront forces bigger than her, but still has plenty of internal doubts about what she's doing and why she does it. Valerie is a star international TV reporter who has been under fire in war zones many times. She has also posed tough questions to world leaders without backing down.

Her internal doubts come out when she is turned down for a big promotion and can't find the words to argue with her boss about it. That makes her a lot more like a real person than some sort of super-woman.

She really comes across as real, though, when you read about her love life. It's kind of a mess. She's been kind of living with an executive at her network but, when he proposes marriage, she can't bring herself to do it. The whole subject just creates doubts in her mind about whether she really loves him or not. Then, in the Congo, she meets an altruistic doctor, Jaime Talon. That's when it gets really messy.

The two of them are thrown together as they try to escape the bad guys who are smuggling diamonds out of the Congo in a scheme that Valerie discovers. Their romance grows despite all the flying bullets and gruesome battles. I don't want to give away the ending, but suffice it to say that David Powell, the man who wants to marry her, re-appears in the end.

Amy Painter 73

This book is a fabulous debut from a great new author. I really enjoyed the story and look forward to reading the next!

Joseph L. Lanza

Dave Donelson brings a fresh look on life in the Congo.
I'm not a novel reader (though I'm ashamed to say), but this gripping illustration of life in a place far from my home is nothing short of enlightening. I found myself rivited to this book like a front seat at my favorite movie.
Thanks Dave for the edutainment!

Daniel M. Berger

Heart of Diamonds: A Novel of Scandal, Love and Death in the Congo

Action Action Action

If you want action, this thriller is for you. From the beginning when a doctor is confronted by an AK-47-wielding rebel soldier to the wild ride in an assault helicopter at the end, Heart of Diamonds is one heart-stopper after another.

The action is built around Valerie Grey, a TV reporter who discovers a diamond smuggling scheme launched by a missionary. The evil bible-thumper, Thomas Alben, isn't really a missionary. He's actually in the Congo to run a diamond mine for American televangelist Gary Peterson. Peterson got the mine from the President of the Congo, Moshe Messime, who thinks he's going to get some influence in the White House in return. That's not as far-fetched as it sounds. A White House aide takes a bribe from the televangelist and, the next thing you know, American troops are on their way to Africa.

Grey uncovers the smuggling scheme when she goes to the Congo to report on the military action. Her desperate efforts to get away from the missionary, the Congolese army, and a US secret agent so she can get the story on the air set the stage for the action. The depiction of the Congolese civil war is very realistic and makes the story even more compelling.

Connie Zuckerman

Dave Donelson's new novel is a riveting ride of intrigue, greed, corruption and romance. I loved the twists and turns and was overwhelmed by the beauty and despair of the Congo which forms the backdrop of this roller coaster ride. With characters that feel real and vibrant, the story carries the reader from one continent to another as we see the connections and collaborations that can bind a small village in the Congo to a corrupt ministry in the United States. I was overwhelmed with emotion as I felt the despair experienced by the local Congolese overrun by violence and poverty, and I clung to the hope that such complex characters as physician Jaime Tallon and journalist Valerie Grey could bring attention and relief to this utterly despairing environment. Overall, it's a great read of intrigue and drama and with words and characters Donelson creates as wonderfully cinematic reality for the reader- this is a great read that has both entertainment value and social justice commentary..I highly recommend it!

L. Sullivan

Heart of Diamonds is addictive--you'll be captivated by its continuing series of turns and twists. Its detail is so vivid, the reader gets lost in its elegant prose, and spends each and every page feeling as if they're right alongside the characters.
The action virtually never stops, but what I enjoyed just as much was the way the book transitions between two starkly different places: the African Congo, and the concrete jungle of New York City.
Network anchorwoman Valerie Grey is the main character, and she finds herself at a crossroads personally and professionally. Grey follows a story lead about diamond smuggling to the African Congo, and traces the various atrocities she witnesses all the way back to the White House.
In the midst of putting her life on the line for this story, Grey encounters a compassionate doctor, Jamie Talon, who has given up everything to run a health clinic in the war-torn village. While weighing a marriage proposal from her longtime boyfriend, Grey falls for the doctor while they are exposing the truth and trying to protect the innocent. It isn't long, before they're both running for their lives.
It isn't just the Congo civil war raging all around them. Before long, Grey is dodging the assassins dispatched by the White House, attempting to put the ultimate end to the breaking story about an American president's greed and deception.
Even once you think it's over, that nothing more could possibly unfold, the heart-racing excitement seizes you again and pulls you along to a fascinating finish.
If you like thrillers, everything from gun battles, to helicopter chases, and crocodile-filled swamp waters, you can't ask for one better than "Heart of Diamonds."

Thomas J. Ralph

Being an avid reader, this book has all the elements of a great read. There is intrigue, greed, suspense and romance. Dave Donelson has mastered them all. The relationship between the characters works well. The exchange between Valerie, David and Jaime after their run in Central Park, sitting at a cafe was very vivid. I liked Jaime's take on the homeless man. It shows that Dave Donelson not only knows how to tell a good story but also understands the human condition at home and in the Congo. There is evidence of this throughout the book.
The author makes you aware of what is going on in other parts of the world and how human beings can treat one another when resources are scarce. He shows what happens when you have a poor country where the people are at war with one another and the good and evil in humanity.
I congratulate Dave Donelson on his first novel. It is well written and I hope to read more of his future books.

Doni Tamblyn

I would heartily recommend this book. It was a great "non-stop" read -- and it opened my eyes to something of dire importance.

Long before reading Heart of Diamonds, I had, of course, heard about war in the Congo. Indeed, war seemed (and, I now see, actually is) a fact of daily life for the Congolese. Perhaps this very "ongoingness" made it lose significance, registering in my unconscious as an almost mundane event that people had somehow gotten used to, rather than the continuous phenomenon of horror that it is. This book gave me a gut-level sense of the ghastly lives to which the people of the Congo have long been subjected, and I am now ashamed of my simple-minded, blind complacency.

This book accomplishes something pretty impressive, in my opinion: While showing, in simple, hard-hitting prose, how a forgotten segment of humanity lives ON A DAILY BASIS with a level of violence and brutality we can't imagine, it truly reads like a blockbuster film! Strong characters (some of them suspiciously familiar) take bold action in a terrifying and fascinating situation.... In short, the story jumps right into your blood.

I hope many, many people will read this book. I know they'll enjoy it. Better yet, I also think they'll learn from it.

Bravo, Mr. Donelson, bravo and thanks.