Like many journalists, JCK news director Rob Bates has made a career out of being curious, and the jewelry industry—with its quirks, big personalities, and family feuds—continues to fuel his work as an author of mystery novels.
Slay It With a Diamond (out Sept. 12) combines Bates’ family history, his professional knowledge of how the jewelry industry really works, and his curiosity about supposedly cursed gemstones. Why, he wondered as he wrote this third book in his mystery series, do people shy away from a “cursed” diamond when they’re fine buying someone’s used stereo?
The book can be read as a stand-alone or as a follow-up to Bates’ critically acclaimed titles A Murder Is Forever and Murder Is Not a Girl’s Best Friend. It includes familiar characters from the earlier novels and is set in New York City’s 47th Street Diamond District and the larger world of luxury retail.
“As the saying goes, you write about what you know, and for all these years, I’ve covered the diamond and jewelry industry. I guess I could write about the adventures of a middle-aged Jewish man in New York City, but that’s pretty well-trod ground,” says Bates.
While the author doubts gemstones are cursed, his research for Slay It With a Diamond shows myths about them persevere.
“One of the most interesting interviews I’ve ever done was with a business school professor who examined why rings which were part of a union that ultimately ended in divorce sold for less than other rings. And she made the point that while you might not want a divorced couple’s engagement ring, you might be happy to nab their stereo equipment,” Bates says.
“The difference, of course, is that the ring, and the diamond in particular, possesses symbolic power. I thought that was really interesting, and some elements of the book stemmed from thinking about why that is.”
In Slay It With a Diamond, New York diamond dealer Max Rosen buys an allegedly cursed gemstone. He doesn’t believe in curses. But then the wife of the famous jeweler who sold him the gem ends up dead.
Soon, Max’s daughter, journalist-turned-amateur-sleuth Mimi Rosen, and her policeman boyfriend are drawn into the dark history of the jeweler’s powerful family. The trail leads Mimi to their opulent mansion, where she uncovers long-buried scandals, a bitter family feud, plus surprising evidence the curse is real—and might kill her next.
Many portrayals of wealth, luxury, and jewelry can be stereotypes, Bates says, but he hopes that his experience shows all sides.
“When I was writing this book, I was watching Succession, and it got me thinking about feuding jewelry families. And when I looked into it, I found so many big luxury dynasties have seen their share of drama—the Guccis are probably the most famous, but there were also disputes among the Van Cleefs, the Winstons, the Swarovksis, and, currently, the Bulgaris,” Bates says.
“Perhaps being born into extreme wealth and privilege can be a kind of a curse. Granted, that’s a curse many of us would be happy to have. But unfortunately, it doesn’t always bring out the best in people.”
Bates’ grandfather was a diamond dealer on 47th Street, and that is one reason he feels a connection to this industry. The main character is named after his grandfather, and the heroine is named after his late mother.
“My books are not serious business tomes, but fun murder mysteries,” Bates says. “I appreciate everyone who purchases and reads them. It means a lot to me, and I hope people enjoy them.”
Bates says he hopes the industry and its major players see themselves in the book, both in terms of the story as well as the community he feels within it. He’s under contract to write a fourth book in the series, although he said he was done at three. So is he cursed—or a bit obsessed, like every writer?
“Many of the portrayals of the industry, like Uncut Gems, make it seem hopelessly crime-ridden and corrupt. I’m not denying that side of the business exists; I spend a lot of time writing about it. But some of the nicest people I have ever met are in this industry, and I’ve also enjoyed the warm family feeling it exhibits at its best,” Bates says.
“There are people in this industry I have known since I was 25 years old, and now I’m, well, a little older. I guess my goal is to show that diamonds and jewelry are a business like any other, with good and bad elements.”
Top: JCK news director Rob Bates covers family business, cursed gems, and jewelry industry intrigue in his third mystery novel, Slay It With a Diamond. (Photos courtesy of Rob Bates)@jckmagazine
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