Picks and Pans Review: Stone 588

updated 04/28/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/28/1986 01:00AM

by Gerald A. Browne

The subject of this outrageous new caper novel is diamonds. There will now be a willing suspension of disbelief while the plot is outlined: Phillip Springer has inherited his father's diamond dealership in Manhattan. His crazy sister, Janet, is given to tantrums. In the midst of one of these, she wraps her fist around what looks like a diamond but is really a rock from another galaxy. Just a little something that Dad left behind. She awakes a fully sane and happy person, thanking her lucky crystal. Springer's sexy girlfriend, Audrey, has a penchant for Devil Dogs, Good & Plenties, and a karma-reading pendulum—a piece of twine weighted with ivory and emerald that she uses to "read" everything from fish mousse to gallery art. She's a quick believer in the powers of Janet's space rock. She slips it to her fabulously wealthy Aunt Libby, whose unsightly arthritis keeps her in gloves instead of her priceless pinky rings. After a nap with Stone 588 (named for its inventory number), Libby's hands are fit for a dishwashing liquid commercial. Oh, yes, Springer's brother, a doctor, surreptitiously uses the bauble to cure the President. There is a growing fanclub for this Lourdes-in-a-lodestone by the time it's stolen from Springer's vault. Audrey vows to get it back to save Springer's 5-year-old son from bone cancer. Their ambitious burglary scheme has all the necessary thriller elements: complex technical planning, an attempted limo kidnapping by thugs named Fane, Hinch and Groat, a chase scene in Saks Fifth Avenue. Browne, a best-selling, New York-based author (19 Purchase Street), has a tendency toward tedious detail—the first chapters read like an intro to gemology—and he dabbles in one-word paragraphs and no-verb sentences that are too precious even for this setting. But his pace is quick, his idiosyncratic characters are amusing, and if you're in a gullible mood, his story is ultimately engaging. (Arbor House, $17.95)

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