Diamond Eye

The first and only novel ever to be sold by the United States Federal Government!

Writer Arthur Rosenfeld’s second novel features the fictional U.S. Postal Inspector Max Diamond, whose investigation into a child porn case and a Miami drug cartel makes for a thrilling and compelling read. Many are not familiar with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, a select law enforcement group whose federal agents work quietly on the sidelines. The author relied on the technical expertise of several real Inspectors to add a truly authentic touch to Inspector Max Diamond’s exploits.

Booklist

Thanks to America’s anthrax scare, postal inspectors have received a lot more attention lately — for good or ill. Yet Maximillian Diamond, the young Miami-area inspector introduced in Rosenfeld’s energetic and witty Diamond Eye, isn’t tracing deadly spores. He’s tracking kiddie porn. Or, rather the producers of kiddie porn — specifically, whoever has been feeding snuff films into the steady stream of pornographic flicks pipelined through the U.S. Postal system. Max’s mission will have him following a distribution network that operates between South America and South Florida, and send him up against Cuco O’Burke, a Latino crime boss whose elegant doctor daughter can accomplish what neither rain nor snow nor dark of night could do: distract Max from his duty. Also along for the ride here are three old college chums of Diamond’s, who may hold the key to solving not only the child pornography puzzle but murder, as well. Rosenfeld dexterously blends cinematic scenes with intricate, often humorous personality studies in what maybe this year’s most promising detective series introduction.

J. Kingston Pierce

The January Magazine

U.S. postal inspector Max Diamond has had better days. Dragged down by a snuff film/child porn investigation, he receives a call telling him that one of his old Yale buddies is dead. The call comes from a woman he hasn’t seen in years, his sexy and sultry onetime lover, Phayle. Who can keep his cool at a time like this? Who can think of love?

But as Diamond delves deeper into the twisted and repulsive porn world, he begins to consider the suicides of his affluent and successful fellow alumni: a stellar woodworker killed by a power tool? A classical music aficionado electrocuted while listening to rock and roll? Something’s not adding up. This wild and unforgiving ride can only be captained by whom? Who can control and make sense of this? Of snuff films, exploited children, secret societies, Miami drug cartels? Of Shining Path guerrillas, and (thankfully at least) Grandma’s cabbage rolls? Max Diamond can.

cluesunlimited.com

Purchase Diamond Eye

Find it on Amazon.com

This is, to put it bluntly, one of the freshest, most enjoyable mysteries to come along in the last couple of years. Max Diamond is a U.S. Postal Inspector, which makes him a federal agent, licensed to carry a gun and everything. When a friend and coworker is murdered, Max inherits a case he would really rather not have anything to do with: a child-pornography ring that just might be making snuff films. You’d think a story about this sort of thing would be moody and depressing (remember the film 8mm?), but, surprise, this is a hugely entertaining novel, lively and funny and fast paced. Any novel that features people with names like Seagrave Chunny, Phayle Tollard, and Twy Boatwright is a novel that practically demands to be read. If an author puts that much imagination into his characters’ names, we wonder, what are his story lines going to be like? Well, the plot here may not be quite as flamboyant as the players’ monikers, but it’s delightfully twisty turny and, at times, surprisingly thought provoking. The story is set in Florida, home of drugs and violence, but the novel is not particularly gritty; nor is it an Elmore Leonard knock-off. Rosenfeld seems to feel no need to imitate other writers; like his resourceful, sharp-as-a-tack protagonist, he is a true original. Diamond Eye is Rosenfeld’s second novel but first mystery. We can only hope it’s the first in a series.

David Pitt

Barnes & Noble

How did the surname ‘Diamond” ever get to be so popular with fictional investigators? From 1957 to 1960, long before he starred as a private eye in Harry o ,actor David Janssen had the title role in another TV series, “Richard Diamond, Private Detective” (which, by the way, also featured Mary Tyler Moore — or at least her legs — as his answering service operator, Sam). “Red Diamond” was the adopted moniker of a cab driver turned shamus who appeared in three parody novels (beginning with 1983’s “Red Diamond, Private Eye”) written by Mark Schorr. In Peter Lovesey’s “The Vault” (1999) and five earlier books, Peter Diamond is a grumpy but keen detective superintendent who heads the murder squad in Bath, England. Eve Diamond is a compulsively curious journalist who’s exploring the Asian teen subculture of Los Angeles in “The Jasmine Trade” (2001), the first novel by Denise Hamilton. And, of course, Peter Falk (much better known for his understated work in TV’s “Columbo” ), lampooned classic hard-boiled gumshoes in Neil Simon’s “Murder By Death” (1976), playing Sam Diamond — a character who was no gem, believe me.

Now along comes Maximillian Diamond, a lonerish, motorcycle-riding, martial-arts-practicing, cigar-loving Yale grad, bald and Jewish, who – thanks to his work as a Miami-area inspector with the United States Postal Inspection Service– endures an almost constant state of career inferiority. “Postal inspectors don’t wear uniforms and swagger about in the public view,” Max muses early on in Arthur Rosenfeld’s refreshingly different new novel, “Diamond Eye”, “and since they are rarely portrayed on either the small or big screen, the general public is barely aware we exist. Postal employees, however, know us all too well, and generally view us as river trolls with guns. At best, most people think we are little men who examine letters to make sure the address is spelled right.”

Forget addresses. What Max is examining in Diamond Eye is kiddie porn. Videotape after videotape of low-brow, amateurishly produced exhibitionism that he’s watching in hopes of it leading him to whoever has been shipping these materials illegally through the public mails. But then, one day, the cheesy plots and numbingly repetitious nudity are abruptly interrupted by what looks like the on-screen murder of a female sex player. Max’s bosses insist the scene must be bogus — until he discovers more snuff films and starts to trace them back to a distribution network operating between South America and South Florida. This is dangerous duty from the get-go; more so, as Max tries to connect the pornography to Cuco O’Burke, a cool-headed Latino crime boss whose international notoriety is muffled behind a surprisingly low profile and a respectable home in Miami’s Little Havana district.

In another author’s hands this premise might have led to a gloomy, dispiriting tale. However, Rosenfeld consciously packs “Diamond Eye” with enough entertaining subplots and enchantingly eccentric secondary characters that the darkness at its core, while never trivialized, also never overwhelms. Max Diamond has his own distractions from the darkness, not the least of which is the bright light of a college friend, Phayle Tollard (“one part sister, one part lover, one part shrink and one part demon. A case study in chaos, she was gloriously as unpredictable as the growth of a galaxy”), who says she’s in town to sell software to an upscale department store chain. She’s also planning to attend the funeral of their mutual college chum, Twyman Boatwright, a lawyer who perished during an unfortunate encounter with a table saw. Yet when Phayle’s reappearance in his life is followed by the bathtub electrocution of Boatwright’s law partner — still another of their Yale cronies — the postal cop can’t help but question whether happenstance or homicide is to blame.

Phayle? Twyman? Parents looking for novel names with which to encumber their newborn offspring might find inspiration in “Diamond Eye”. Here we also meet Max’s boss, Wacona “Waco” Smith (“Her librarian looks are deceiving. She’s a barracuda”); his new partner, Mozart Portrero, a former Vietnam “tunnel rat”; Seagrave Chunny, a senior postal inspector who is determined to win the hand of Max’s widowed immigrant grandmother; and Guiomary O’Burke, the crime king’s elegant daughter (“shining jet black hair, pouting lips, a high-collared sea-green dress to match her enormous eyes, just enough chin, and the body to start a revolution”). Originals, all. Yet none is so memorable as Max Diamond himself, with his pet Galapagos tortoise, his father who did prison time for real estate fraud and hates it that his son went into law enforcement (“He lumped all cops together as heartless bastards who had misunderstood him and ruined his life”), his rueful recollections of a sister who died in childhood and his charming if awkward exuberance around fetching females (which leads, at one point, to his being caught by a security guard as he seeks to seduce Phayle beside a swank hotel’s swimming pool). Max is better drawn in his very first outing than some fictional detectives are over the entire course of their career.

Despite his having penned only one previous novel – “A Cure for Gravity” (2000), a picaresque yarn about mismatched motorcyclists on a magic-flavored journey across the United States — Rosenfeld boasts a surprisingly polished narrative voice and some skill at engineering suspense. (Especially rewarding is an episode, about three-quarters of the way through “Diamond Eye”, that finds the inspector interrogating a Peruvian terrorist he believes can expose an international child-smuggling operation.) He’s also adept at composing warmer sequences dependent on dialogue, such as that in which Max talks with his firecracker of a grandmother, Sara, about a ring she has just received from Seagrave Chunny:

“What kind of ring?”
“Never mind,” she said, looking away. “What kind of ring?” I repeated.
“A diamond,” she sniffed.
“May I see it?”
“What is it your business?”
“It’s my business because you’re my grandmother and he’s my friend.”
“Some friend. Ha! He walks like a bird.”
“Sara,” I said, threateningly.
She stood up from the couch, looking less vital than I had ever seen her – smaller, too, as if Sea Chunny’s marriage proposal had taken something off her frame and she was no longer able to stand quite as strong and stiff.
“Oy, Max, I don’t know what to do.”
I rose and took her in my arms. She smelled faintly of lilac water, which was surprising, as she very rarely used the stuff. Last night must have been something.
“You’re worried about what Grandpa Isaac would think, aren’t you?”
“You think I don’t know what he would think? Me taking another man to my bed.”
“You didn’t choose Grandpa Isaac. You are free to choose Sea.”
“Never say that!” she pushed me back.
“But it’s true! You’ve told me so yourself It was a different world, a different life, the war, the militia, your father. You did what you had to do and you grew to love him. I know you did. He was a good man. But still, life changes. This is a new chapter now, a new chance. Wherever he is, Grandpa has learned enough to know that. He would want you to be happy. Don’t sell him short.”
“Who made you the rabbi all of a sudden?”

In fact, Rosenfeld shows so much talent in so many areas that his infrequent stumbles are all the more glaring. For instance, while his characterizations are generally imaginative, the author’s decision to make Max’s partner, Mozart, a gay, black ex-Marine — a balance of the tough and the tender — is rather a cliché. And his casting of Guiomary O’Burke, the notorious Don’s daughter, as a doctor at Mercy Hospital — an angel to her dad’s devil – is a real groaner. It’s unfortunate, too, that Phayle Tollard, who is such a free-spirited and flirtatious presence in the first half of the book, remains offstage during most of its second half. She returns at the end, sharing a personal history that ties in with the porno tape shipments, but by then Max — and Rosenfeld — have pushed her to such a distance from this drama that her pain no longer affects the reader as it might have done had she remained a focus of the plot all along.

There’s such an abundance of Florida crime novelists these days — Carl Hiaasen, Randy Wayne White, Tim Dorsey, E.C. Ayres, James W. Hall and the rest — that they tend to blend together, like tropical birds belting out similar, if similarly pleasing, tunes. But “Diamond Eye” is a special delivery, no question about that. With its wit, warmth and wonderfully wild cast, it promises more genre-enriching adventures to come from Boca Raton resident Arthur Rosenfeld and his moral agent of the mails, Max Diamond. Hey, who knew that detective fiction could benefit from going postal?

Publishers Weekly

 

More Praise…

In his anticipated follow-up to the well received “A Cure for Gravity”, Rosenfeld profiles what many see as the lowest form of federal agent, a U.S. Postal inspector. Cocky narrator Max Diamond investigates Boca Raton’s crooked postmen, mail fraud, letter bombs, mail scams and threats against postal employees, getting no respect from citizens or the police. The grandson of Jewish immigrants, an Ivy League grad and a tai chi chuan master, Diamond leads a balanced, Taoist lifestyle that’s disturbed when he uncovers a Peru-to-South Florida distribution network for gruesome child porn and snuff films. The illegal video pipeline seems to connect with Cuco O’Burke, an internationally powerful yet low-profile Latino crime lord operating out of the well-to-do neighborhood of Little Havana. Complicating his obsession with solving what appears to be an impossible case, two of Diamond’s old Yale buddies and fellow members of the secret Lyre & Stone society have just died in mysterious and particularly macabre circumstances, throwing their South Beach law business with Yalie Cliff Hughes into chaos. Diamond’s mentally and physically draining investigation of the porn ring and his undercover probe of what he believes are the murders of his friends is softened only by the presences of old college flame Phayle Tollard, in town on business, and seductress Guiomary O’Burke, daughter of the kingpin Diamond is gunning to bust. Yet it is the increasingly suspect Phayle and an ugly truth hidden by the Lyre & Stone brotherhood that threaten to ruin Diamond. Exploring cop-struggling-against-criminal-desire themes hauntingly reminiscent of Hammett’s “Red Harvest”, Rosenfeld crafts a high-action suspense thriller with plenty of wry humor and cultural commentary.
BookBrowser Review
7/25/2001
by Bob Hahn

The hardboiled genre has survived as long as it has because every so often someone comes along who can breathe new life into it – revitalize it with originality and panache. It is obvious from this second Max [Maximillian] Diamond adventure that the hardboiled school has a new master to ensure its continued good health.

Diamond is a member of the USPIS – United States Postal Inspection Service – a federal agency that in addition to monitoring the honesty of postal employees also handles mail fraud, letter bombs and scams. Also, as in “Diamond Eye”, cases that involve pornography shipped via mail.

Max inherits a case from a slain colleague that requires him to screen a seized shipment of videos. In the process of doing so, he discovers a tape within a tape that appears to involve a genuine snuff incident. While most of the tapes appear to be “normal” pornography, Max discovers others that are anything but: child sex, bestiality, torture and murder. The images are so disturbing that Max becomes obsessed with the case.

At the same time, Max becomes involved with friends from his Yale College past: Phayle, former love of his life, and three fellow members of Yale’s semi-secret Lyre and Stone society. Those friends share deadly secrets and more than one will die before Max can get to the bottom of things.

Max operates in the best tarnished knight tradition and he’s got a wealth of idiosyncrasies that distinguish him: a pet Galapagos tortoise; a restored 1974 BMW R9OS motorcycle; skill in Tai Chi Ch’uan; and more. But it is Rosenfeld’s crisp writing, vivid characters and incisive humor that make Max Diamond a treasure to discover. “A Cure for Gravity” is the first book in the series.

The Sun Sentinel
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
by Chauncey Mabe

POSTAL INSPECTOR INVADES MIAMI VICE TURF

Max Diamond is the kind of cop you only encounter in fiction.

An inspector for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, he’s got his own code of honor, not letting little things like procedures, bosses or regulations get in its way.

His hobbies are tai chi and motorcycles and, of course, in a scrape he can kill a man with his bare hands. No dog or cat for this guy; his pet is a giant Galapagos tortoise named Picard that Diamond keeps on the terrace of his one-bedroom apartment in Boca Raton.

You can bet his cases will involve exotic murder, sexual pathology (snuff films, kiddie porn), loads of high-speed chases, gun play, fisticuffs, tense hostage dramas and beautiful dames with names seldom heard in real life: Wacona, Phayle, Guiomary.

In other words, Max Diamond is the kind of cop you’ve met a thousand times before, in books, TV, movies. Everything about him is a gimmick; everything he does, every thought he thinks, is a cliche.

Whether or not these clichés are strung together in a fresh or entertaining way rests entirely with the writer who thought him up.

On that score, Diamond is in luck. His creator, Arthur Rosenfeld, is a Boca Raton novelist who proved his mettle with his breakout book, “A Cure for Gravity”, an unclassifiable tale of crime, male bonding, fatherhood, motorcycles, tornadoes and homegrown magical realism that made it one of last year’s most pleasant surprises.

There are few surprises, if you discount the obligatory red-herrings, in “Diamond Eye”. Its biggest gimmick is also the truest: When was the last time you read a mystery starring a postal inspector? Diamond sometimes gets ribbed by suspects who can’t believe they’re being hassled by the Post Office. In fact, the USPIS is one of the oldest law enforcement agencies in America, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1772, and its inspectors are real federal agents who carry real guns and investigate real, sometimes nasty, crimes.

It could have been sublime had Rosenfeld mined this virgin territory to create a sort of police procedural set in the world of wire fraud, child pornography, letter bombs, postal theft and whatever else real postal inspectors investigate. He could have given us a postal version of “Homicide: Life on the Streets”; instead, he’s chosen to go with “Miami Vice”.

In the first of what promises to be a series of Diamond novels, the intrepid inspector is determined to track down the source of what he believes to be genuine snuff films. But his boss, the smart yet curvaceous Wacona Smith, thinks the snuff films are staged, not real, and orders Diamond to pursue his backlog of other cases.

Meanwhile, two of his Yale buddies, Miami law partners, die in bizarre household accidents; his college girlfriend, Phayle Tolland, starts to look like a murder suspect. And all the threads in every case he’s working on seem to lead to an elegant Miami drug kingpin named Cuco O’Burke – who happens to have a beauteous daughter, Guiomary, who is not only a doctor (!), but is also powerfully attracted to Diamond.

Somehow, Rosenfeld gives this tired, needlessly complicated and tricked-up story more heft than it deserves. His knowledge of South Florida, from Rivera Beach to Coral Gables, is exhaustive; the local color is very good. He invests his characters, most of whom have ridiculous pulp-fiction names – in addition to Wacona Smith, Diamond’s fellow agents are Seagrave Chunny and Mozart Potrero – with surprising emotional weight and complexity.

Best of all, Rosenfeld writes a muscular prose that moves along at a brisk clip, even when Diamond is doing nothing more than sitting at his desk or feeding Picard. “Diamond Eye”, with its familiar hero and timeworn crime-novel machinery, isn’t really a worthy successor to something as special as “A Cure for Gravity”. But it is smooth and fast, and it provides plenty of bang for your entertainment dollar, at least if bang is the main thing you’re looking for.
In the first of what promises to be a series of Diamond novels, the intrepid inspector is determined to track down the source of what he believes to be genuine snuff films. But his boss, the smart yet curvaceous Wacona Smith, thinks the snuff films are staged, not real, and orders Diamond to pursue his backlog of other cases.

Meanwhile, two of his Yale buddies, Miami law partners, die in bizarre household accidents; his college girlfriend, Phayle Tolland, starts to look like a murder suspect. And all the threads in every case he’s working on seem to lead to an elegant Miami drug kingpin named Cuco O’Burke — who happens to have a beauteous daughter, Guiomary, who is not only a doctor (!), but is also powerfully attracted to Diamond.

Somehow, Rosenfeld gives this tired, needlessly complicated and tricked-up story more heft than it deserves. His knowledge of South Florida, from Rivera Beach to Coral Gables, is exhaustive; the local color is very good. He invests his characters, most of whom have ridiculous pulp-fiction names — in addition to Wacona Smith, Diamond’s fellow agents are Seagrave Chunny and Mozart Potrero — with surprising emotional weight and complexity.

Best of all, Rosenfeld writes a muscular prose that moves along at a brisk clip, even when Diamond is doing nothing more than sitting at his desk or feeding Picard. “Diamond Eye”, with its familiar hero and timeworn crime-novel machinery, isn’t really a worthy successor to something as special as “A Cure for Gravity”. But it is smooth and fast, and it provides plenty of bang for your entertainment dollar, at least if bang is the main thing you’re looking for.

Amazon.com
July 2001
From Booklist: *Starred Review*

This is, to put it bluntly, one of the freshest, most enjoyable mysteries to come along in the last couple of years. Max Diamond is a U.S. Postal Inspector, which makes him a federal agent, licensed to carry a gun and everything. When a friend and coworker is murdered, Max inherits a case he would really rather not have anything to do with: a child-pornography ring that just might be making snuff films. You’d think a story about this sort of thing would be moody and depressing (remember the film “8mm”?), but, surprise, this is a hugely entertaining novel lively and funny and fast paced. Any novel that features people with names like Seagrave Chunny, Phayle Tollard, and Twy Boatwright is a novel that practically demands to be read. If an author puts that much imagination into his characters’ names, we wonder, what are his story lines going to be like? Well, the plot here may not be quite as flamboyant as the players’ monikers, but it’s delightfully twisty turny and, at times, surprisingly thought provoking. The story is set in Florida, home of drugs and violence, but the novel is not particularly gritty; nor is it an Elmore Leonard knock-off. Rosenfeld seems to feel no need to imitate other writers; like his resourceful, sharp-as-a-tack protagonist, he is a true original. “Diamond Eye” is Rosenfeld’s second novel but first mystery. We can only hope it’s the first in a series. – David Pitt

The Washington Times
Washington, D.C.
July 15, 2001
by Judith Kreiner

Lurking beneath the most boring book cover of the month, is a quiet delight of a mystery starring U.S. Postal Inspector Max Diamond (no relation to the above). “Diamond Eye” is the mystery debut of Arthur Rosenfeld and one can but hope for more to come.

Diamond is an unusually normal person to be starring in a mystery – no tough guy, no unusual hobbies or physical traits, no more than the usual kind and number of neuroses – but he comes on like a pit bull when the “blue” tape he is inspecting segues into kiddie porn that deteriorates into a snuff film. His hunt for the perpetrators takes him into dark, dangerous territory, a place he negotiates with courage and grace. And a fair amount of humor for leavening.

Diamond is a refreshing addition to the mystery world and just might be the first in a new subgenre, the postal inspector mystery.
BooksForABuck.com
July 2001

Postal Inspector Max Diamond discovers apparent snuff film and child pornography in what appear to be standard videos. Ignoring his boss’s orders, he insists on investigating. The death of a child hits too close to his personal past for him to ignore. Following leads that span from malingering postal workers to an ex-girlfriend to the Cuban Mafia in Miami, to Peruvian terrorist organizations, Diamond stays on the case.

Author Arthur Rosenfeld takes a powerful and emotive premise – -a combination of child pornography and murder on film – and combines this with an interesting character in Max Diamond. Rosenfeld gives the reader a real feel for the atmosphere, both physical and social, of Miami in the early 21st century, as well as a look into one of the more obscure branches of federal law enforcement. The brief scene where Diamond and his boss swoop in to protect a mail delivery person is a small gem.

I enjoyed Diamond’s relationship with his family-~both his grandmother and her boyfriend, and his own parents. The impact of his sister’s death helped explain Diamond’s motivation and justified his occasionally excessively violent responses.

Two significant flaws keep this book from reaching its full promise. First, Diamond’s treatment of his ex-girlfriend is simply inexcusable. After a sexual encounter, he doesn’t bother returning her calls, ignores her visits, and treats her like a subhuman. Second, the coincidental connection of so many of Diamond’s apparently disconnected cases stretches reader credibility.

Flawed or not, “DIAMOND EYE” makes for powerful and compelling reading.

Three Stars