Covering the endless civil war in the Congo seems like the perfect way for television journalist Valerie Grey to escape the tangles of her personal life. But complications arise—most of them red-hot dangerous—when she stumbles onto a diamond smuggling scheme that begins in the Congo and leads to the White House.
In a plot-driving twist, the diamonds come from a mine owned by American televangelist Gary Peterson, who smuggles them inside nkisi, traditional figures like voodoo dolls, in a scheme to cheat his partner in the mine, Congolese President Moshe Messime. Valerie learns that an aide to US President Billy Baker is involved, news that casts an ugly, profit-driven light on an impending US military action in the war-ravaged country. As Valerie closes in on the truth, each of these powerful men—the preacher, the politician, and the dictator—unleash their personal dogs of war to keep her from revealing their bloody secrets.
Valerie relies on her own wits, courage, and grit to survive their savage pursuit through the horrific war-torn landscape of the Congo. Caught between her pursuers and brutal warring factions fighting for control of the diamond-rich region, Valerie canoes down crocodile-infested rivers, dodges attacking helicopters, and races over teeth-rattling roads to bring her story to the outside world.
A love triangle both enriches the adventure and lays the groundwork for tragedy, as Valerie struggles to understand her conflicting feelings for companion David Powell, the über journalist who helped shape her fabulous career, and Dr. Jaime Talon, who selflessly runs a struggling clinic near the mine. The chaos of civil war forms the perfect backdrop for Valerie’s despair in the soul-shattering climax.
The story draws on actual events in the recent bloody history of the Congo, where six million people have died in the seemingly endless struggle for control of the country’s natural riches. In a case of truth as strange as fiction, even the central element of the plot, ownership of a Congolese diamond mine by an American televangelist, is drawn from Pat Robertson’s mid-1990’s escapades with the notorious Mobutu Sese Seko, former dictator of Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Heart of Diamonds is fiction but is based on extensive research and personal experience. I gathered a wealth of material for the book on my visits to this region of Africa.