Book Review: Crown Jewel by Christopher Reich
By Guy BergstromMarch 25, 2019
Crown Jewel by Christopher Reich is the second thriller featuring spy-for-hire Simon Riske featuring stolen sports cars, brilliant casino heists, and the brazen kidnapping of a prince.
Christopher Reich’s new hero, Simon Riske, is pitched as part Bond, part Reacher.
Crown Jewel, the second book to feature Riske, leans more on the Bond side, with the ex-thief hired to discover who’s stealing from a high-end casino in Monte Carlo.
Reich knows this part of the world, having lived and worked in the Swiss finance industry. The scenes depicting the villain’s team of thieves operating in the casino are fleshed out and interesting:
At ten p.m., after the last of the team had entered, each member moved to a predetermined workstation in the high rollers’ rooms on the casino’s second floor, where the game of baccarat was played. Each player began with a bankroll of ten thousand euros. They played quietly and conservatively. They did not drink. They did not seek the attention of the beautiful women drifting in and out of the rooms. They did not on any occasion speak to the dealer. And never ever did they place wild or outrageous wagers. Nothing was remarkable about the players except one thing: they won.
And they won.
There are expensive super-cars involved in deadly chases, wealthy villains with yachts and Swiss bank accounts, along with a series of beautiful women with whom Riske gets involved. This part of the story feels more like the old ‘60s and ‘70s Bond movies, with most of the female characters showing up only once, never to be seen again.
The major exception to this is the female lead who does stick through to the end of the story.
As for the Reacher comparison, that’s a bit more tenuous. Reacher is methodical and clever, a former military policeman with the brain of Sherlock Holmes stuffed into the body of a tank, and the Lee Child novels with Reacher are gritty and dark, spiced with his hero’s sarcastic wit.
Riske isn’t allergic to violence. He just doesn’t come across like a Reacher-style unstoppable force, with different villains and thugs getting the better of him a few times.
This doesn’t mean the story isn’t fast-paced and fun. Riske certainly goes on a wild adventure as he tries to catch a team of casino thieves:
“I’ll give you five percent of anything you find. Mr. Riske, this has got to stop.”
Simon looked from one man to the other. He wondered how much Lord Toby Stonewood had offered the expert who’d washed up in a fishing net. Success fees were nice, but you had to be alive to collect them. A million dollars was no good to a dead man.
“Well?” said D’Art.
Simon had already made his decision. “Deal,” he said.
He was a gambling man. He never turned town a bet on himself.
Solving that puzzle is the fun of the book.
While the heart of mysteries is more in the whydunit than the whodunit, thrillers are about betrayal—and there is a big, fine betrayal in the climax of Crown Jewel.