‘Diamonds and Cole,’ by Michael Maxwell

My plan was to handle the stack of book reviews I’ve been planning in chronological order, so I could tell you about the oldest books before I forget them completely.

But Diamonds and Cole by Michael Maxwell, which I finished yesterday, changed my plan. I’m so excited about this book that I want to tell you about it right away. Also, you can get it for Kindle (it’s only available in electronic format) free, at least as of the date of this review.

Cole Sage is a Chicago newspaper man. There was a time when he was a Big Deal. War correspondent, investigative reporter. But the fire went out of him, and for the last couple years he’s been reduced to writing filler stories thrown to him, like bones, by his editor.

Then one day he’s sent to cover the rescue of a cat from a tree. Only, by the time he gets there, it’s become a hostage situation. Cole is shocked back into his old consciousness, and writes a great story.

But when he gets back to the office, he finds a phone message on his desk. Ellie has called – Ellie, the love of his youth, the one who got away, the woman he thinks about every day. All the message says is that she needs help. He gets on a plane back to California, his home, without delay.

He finds Ellie in a nursing home, dying. She has one request – that he find her estranged daughter, so they can be reconciled before time runs out. Cole starts searching, despair in his heart – only it’s all more complicated than he expects. There’s crime in the shadows of his old home town, and Ellie’s ex-husband is in the thick of it. Racing against time, Cole must use all his investigative skills – and risk his life – so that the woman he’s never stopped loving can die in peace.

I used up some Kleenex (in a manly sort of way) reading this book. The characters and relationships overshadow the crime story. Cole Sage is a likable guy, and he likes people – he sees the best in them (if there’s any there) and tries to nurture it. I really enjoyed spending time with him as I read.

Even more, I was impressed by a very unusual thing author Maxwell does here. A minor character in the book is an old Pentecostal preacher, one Cole used to hear preaching when he was a kid. It would have been very easy – and lazy – for Maxwell to paint a grotesque portrait of the kind we see so often in fiction and drama, but he doesn’t do that. He doesn’t gloss over the problems and scandals that exist in the Pentecostal movement, but the old preacher himself is presented with respect – as a good, decent, and caring man.

There’s a spiritual element to this book, but I wouldn’t call it explicitly Christian. On the other hand, Christianity is not lampooned or marginalized either. I take that as a kindness from the author. From hints in the story, I suspect his beliefs are rather more liberal than mine, but I didn’t feel insulted or condescended to. Maxwell seems to be like his character – he likes people and treats them with respect.

I highly recommend this book. I suspect there may have been some rough language, but I can’t recall any specific instances.

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