L'Homme aux yeux de diamant-2006
L'Homme aux yeux de diamant ("The Man with the Diamond Eyes") is set in Europe and the United States in the milieu of diamond merchants and of those nefarious individuals who commission the most heinous crimes. Elisabeth Clark was the heroine of Christine Arnothy's immensely successful novels published under the pseudonym of William Dickinson, in Albin Michel's collection "Spécial Suspense". "Using this pseudonym, I felt freer to write an adventure that would be more Anglo-saxon than French in inspiration, with New York and Las Vegas as backdrops", explains Christine Arnothy.
She has never come so close again to her bestselling novel Vent africain ("The Wind from Africa") as she does in this new boook, which recounts the thrilling but dangerous existence of a merchant of precious gems who risks his very life to acquire the "Eyes", two fifty carat- diamonds with a very murky past. Ruby blood flows through these pages, intrigue abounds, and the dramatic tension reaches unparalleled heights. Even the most sophisticated crimes are never perfect…
This literary adventure shows off to perfection Christine Arnothy's wide palette of talents. Her characters are all the victims and the heroes of a twin and eternal fascination : money and power.
© Fayard et Christine Arnothy
The man seated at the mahogany desk was listening intently. He had just heard soft footsteps. Someone was moving inside the large patrician home. The sharp, light strokes of the clock had just marked the hour. He looked at the little hand, poised on the numeral XI.
His office was on the third floor. He heard steps reverberating in the plush carpeted staircase. Berthold Helenbrandt picked up the receiver to call his wife, but, afraid she would upbraid him for being obsessed with danger, he replaced it. Rising from his armchair, he peered through the shutters out into the road, saw the lamppost across the way: the street was deserted. He strained to listen. There it was, he'd heard it again, someone was coming from the second floor down to the first. Could it be a thief, who had discovered that on the kitchen and the courtyard sides the security system was not totally operational? The cleaning woman must have forgotten to activate the alarm system. What would the intruder be after? A chandelier from his collection? Or was he just on a reconnaissance mission? "But," he thought, "maybe I'm just imagining it. Sometimes, in the house, the furniture creaked without being touched. The stairs also rebelled occasionally when the summer heat invaded the house.
He decided to venture out into the large hallway, to turn on the lights and track down the source of the noise. His wife's bedroom was on the first floor. He wasn't going to knock on her door; that would just bring on a hysterical fit. She managed to sleep only with the help of powerful sleeping-pills, and an abrupt awakening would turn her into a wild beast.
He walked past the tall, graceful clock, whose golden pendulum, separated from the body of the clock by a narrow glass opening, moved in rhythm to time. Berthold looked up at the clock face. For years he had felt guilty, condemned to a brutal death. One day a Czech refugee had offered him a saphire stolen from the oldest synagogue in Europe, the Altneu, in Prague. He had explained that he'd found it when the synagogue was destroyed. The man had held the saphire in the hollow of his hand. He had rolled it out of a handerchief to show to Helenbrandt, who had been overwhelmed with emotion. His fascination for the stone put him in another world, and the thought that this gem could be reduced to something resembling simple merchandise drove him crazy. He had bought it with the idea that he would one day return it to the Altneu. He had hidden the sapphire - in Hebrew, sappir - in the depths of the clock, right across from him, and had made the clock run on electricity. It didn't need to be wound, it survived like a human being on artificial respiration. And so the sappir swung to the right and to the left, incrusted in the golden disc - specialists called it a "lens" but for Helenbrandt it was a little sun. He could only live in peace with his jewel because he was convinced he was honoring a sacred object.
He went out into the hall and leaned over the balustrade which looked down on the entrance. Even from there, he could smell Francesca’s perfume. He grabbed the rail, took the steps down to the first floor, and headed in the direction of his wife’s room. He felt diminished, humiliated, to need her presence. He thought he heard short, staccato sounds, like little gasps. Was his wife not alone? Did she have a lover? Had she dared to bring him into the house? Francesca’s overpowering perfume penetrated every corner of the wide hall. It was always the same one, Mandala . “Gallons of it”, thought Berthold. She spent a fortune on the scent which, tonight, semed to have acquired an additional olfactive nuance. “Mandala plus naphthalene”, he thought, ironically. He was troubled and suddenly recalled an evening's entertainment they had organized, a show of a particularly sexual nature, after their first dinner under this roof.
Since his early adolescence, Berthold had always been a voyeur. He had met Francesca in a nightclub in the Belgian capital. Born in the United States, the daughter of Italian immigrants, she had something of an American aura about her. After failing in a succession of artistic endeavors, she had returned to Europe with an Italian industrialist who had later abandoned her, leaving her a respectable sum as a break-up gift. The evening that Berthold had decided to venture out and experience a bit of Brussels’ nightlife, drawn by a desire for some music and some action, he had spent the evening at the Rumba, a popular nightclub in the Walloon sector. On the lookout for a wealthy, or at least well-off, client, Franscesca had spotted the jeweller, who needed a woman for the evening. Thirty-five years younger than him, she had offered him the night of his life. First she had arranged for him to watch the sexual adventures of a number of couples, then she had given him a taste of certain extreme pleasures. She was proud of her long legs, bragged about her sexual conquests, spoke of Las Vegas. So why was she alone, and why here? Her Italian boyfriend had died in a helicopter accident, she said. “It might even be true,” Berthold had thought.
In the course of their affair, she had had to pursue Berthold, who often slipped out of her grasp, then had finally managed to marry him. Their pre-nuptial agreement was a stringent one. “Their very breath is included under the heading “division of property”, the notary had declared after they had signed, pleased to be dealing with a smart client for once. For Helenbrandt, Francesca was the fantasy of an old man who didn’t want to die all alone in a hospital room. She would be attentive and gentle, waiting for her part in the inheritance.
Antwerp had welcomed Francesca with a degree of curiosity, but soon the chief local figures in the most fashionable circles began to ignore her. Embittered by the experience, Mme Helenbrandt soon understood that it wasn’t enough to marry a wealthy man to have money. They lived side by side, but she had to inscribe her expenses in a notebook that her husband examined carefully at the end of every month. She was fed up with men. She had tried so hard to dominate them, and she had always been betrayed. (…)
|© Fayard et Christine Arnothy
Le Nouvel Observateur, 22 juin 2006, Claire Julliard "Une plongée redoutable dans les eaux troubles d'un monde où les diamants valent plus cher que les hommes."
Le Point, 6 juillet 2006, Anne Ferrand "(?) l'auteur révèle un talent indéniable et acharné pour les histoires affreuses."
Gazette du Palais, 25-26 octobre 2006, René Vigo « Intrépide, obstinée, malicieuse, Christine Arnothy crée, comme en se jouant, des situations diaboliques avec coups de théâtre. Le lecteur, conquis, est constamment en haleine, dans une incessante tension, par la magie d'une romancière d'exception (?). »
© Christine Arnothy