The Barnes & Noble Review
Robert Ludlum meets The Da Vinci Code in James Twining's electrifying debut novel. It's an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride, set in the international art and antiquities marketplace, that deals with a missing set of priceless coins -- and the individuals who will do anything to possess them.
When an Italian priest is found murdered in Paris with an exceedingly rare American coin -- the 1933 Double Eagle -- lodged in his throat, the FBI is called in to investigate. Special Agent Jennifer Browne, trying to prove her competency after making a deadly mistake in her last mission, is assigned to the case. Though the handful of gold coins still in existence are supposed to be safely locked away in Fort Knox, when Browne visits the Kentucky depository, she discovers that all the coins are gone! When she finds a possible link between the Fort Knox theft and a rogue CIA agent reported dead ten years earlier, she tracks down "Tom Kirk" -- now an infamous art thief -- in London, and together they begin to unravel the elaborate puzzle. But as the pieces slowly fall into place, the two begin to realize that they're up against not only a ruthless criminal mastermind but also much more powerful -- and malevolent -- agencies…
Fans of recent bestsellers like Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason's The Rule of Four and The Third Translation by Matt Bondurant will devour this adept blend of fact and fiction -- a high-speed (and highly intellectual) world-hopping thriller à la Ludlum, Ken Follett, and Frederick Forsyth. In a word: Sensational! Paul Goat Allen
In 1933, the U.S. government secured the five remaining specimens of the $20 Double Eagle and stored them in Fort Knox for safekeeping. Seventy years later, one of these priceless gold coins is found embedded in the mutilated body of a priest found floating in the Seine. Sent to investigate, FBI agent Jennifer Browne quickly sets her sights on former CIA operative and retired jewel thief Tom Kirk; but her prime suspect is himself on the trail of the thieves. Reluctantly, they join forces to redeem their reputations. James Twining's debut novel bristles with fast-paced excitement.
Making his thriller debut after a career as a London entrepreneur, Twining consciously deals in clich s: 007-ish bad guys, contrived plot mechanisms and Perils of Pauline-style hairsbreadth escapes. He has a nice feel for them. Tom Kirk is a rogue ex-CIA operative who, after a profitable career as an international jewel thief, is attempting to go legit; Jennifer Browne is a foxy FBI special agent trying to work her way back into the good graces of the service after accidentally killing a fellow agent. When a 1933 $20 Double Eagle gold coin turns up in the belly of a dead ex-priest-turned-fence--the rest of the run had officially been listed as destroyed--Jennifer discovers that five other "unofficial" specimens are missing from Fort Knox. Meanwhile, Kirk's final heist, of a priceless Faberg egg, is catching up with him, and the FBI dispatches Jennifer to London with the gold coin to offer Kirk a deal of immunity if he will help recover the missing coins. The mismatched pair manage to have the remaining coin stolen from them; its trail then leads from London to Paris, Amsterdam and Istanbul. Despite a highly theatrical and overly protracted finale, this is an auspicious beginning for a fledgling series. Agent, George Lucas at Inkwell Management. (Sept. 1) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
At the center of this debut novel by former investment banker Twining is the most expensive gold coin ever sold, the 1933 Double Eagle. Described as the "Holy Grail" of numismatics (the study or collecting of coins), this rare treasure has been embroiled in intrigue and controversy since a handful of Double Eagles escaped melting when FDR recalled all gold currency and bullion. Twining's obvious research pays off as we are treated to a compelling fusion of real historical events and modern thrills. His references to notable art and artifacts, especially pieces lost to art thieves, lend an air of veracity to the entire novel. When a Double Eagle coin believed to be one of five stolen from Fort Knox is recovered from the body of a slain priest, CIA operative turned art thief Tom Kirk and FBI agent Jennifer Browne are thrown together to recover the coins. Neither can afford to trust the other-and neither can afford to fail. Kirk, an action hero as adroit and charismatic as Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt, will appear in a series of books planned by Twining. Recommended for most popular fiction collections.-Laura A.B. Cifelli, Fort Myers-Lee Cty. P.L., FL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
In Twining's debut thriller, Fort Knox could use a few more guards. The arsenal is robbed, to the tune of $40 million. Back in the '30s, things were tough-tough enough for FDR to take the country off the gold standard, which the president had hoped might bring the Great Depression to its knees. In effect, gold became illegal, and soon, five solid-gold Double Eagle coins wound up in a Fort Knox vault to keep them out of opportunistic hands. Over the next few decades, each one's value skyrocketed to millions of dollars. The FBI, CIA and other agencies charged with various aspects of guardianship move into action to recover the treasure. Enter Special Agent Jennifer Browne ("strikingly beautiful . . . milky brown skin . . . curly black hair that just kissed her bare shoulders.") Strikingly beautiful she may be, but Special Agent Browne has in the recent past blotted her copybook by shooting to death, albeit accidentally, an FBI colleague. But if she cracks the case of the purloined coins, redemption is hers. Now enter cat burglar Tom Kirk, described by those in a position to judge as the best thief who ever rappelled down the side of a building. Tom, though, is burnt out and wants to retire. On the theory that it takes one to catch one, the determined special agent is dispatched to London with a sweetheart deal for the peerless Kirk if he'll help recover the illegal eagles. But in a world where Double Eagles make double-dealing obligatory, not a single thing goes easily. Lifeless and derivative lead characters gum up the plot: Jennifer is petulant when she ought to be feisty, and Tom is more insipid than intrepid.
Read an Excerpt
The Double Eagle
By James Twining
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2005 James Twining
All right reserved.
Fifth Avenue, New York City
16 July -- 11:30 p.m.
Gracefully he fell, his body arcing in one smooth movement out from the side of the building and then back in, like a spider caught in a sudden gust of wind as it dropped on its thread, until with a final fizz of the rope through his gloved hand he landed on the balcony of the seventeenth floor.
Crouching, he unclipped the rope from his harness and flattened his back to the wall, his dark, lithe shape blending into the stained stone. He didn't move, his chest barely rising, the thin material of his black ski mask slick against his lips. He had to be sure. He had to be certain that no one had seen him on the way down. So he waited, listening to the shallow breaths of the city slumbering fitfully below him, watching the Met's familiar bulk retreating into shadow as its floodlights were extinguished.
And all the while, Central Park's dark lung, studded with the occasional lights of taxis making their way between East and West Eighty-sixth Street, breathed a chilled, oxygenated air up the side of the building that made him shiver despite the heat. Air heavy with New York's distinctive scent, an intoxicating cocktail of fear, sweat, and greed that bubbled up from subway tunnels and steam vents.
And although a lone NYPD chopper, spotlight primed, circled ever closer and the muffled scream of sirens echoed up from distant streets through the warm air, he could tell they were not for him. They never were. Tom Kirk had never been caught.
Keeping below the level of the carved stone balustrade, he padded over to the large semicircular window that opened onto the balcony, its armored panes glinting like sheet steel. Inside, he could see that the room was dark and empty, as he knew it would be. As it was every weekend during the summer.
A few taps on each of the hinges that ran down the side of the right-hand window and the bolts popped out into his hand. Then carefully, so as not to break the alarmed central magnetic contact, he levered the edge of the window away from the frame until there was a gap big enough for him to slip through.
Once inside, Tom swung his pack down off his shoulder. From the main compartment he took out what looked like a metal detector -- a thin black plate attached to an aluminium rod. He flicked a switch on the top of the plate and a small green light on its smooth surface glowed into life. Keeping completely still, he gripped the rod in his right hand and began to sweep the plate over the arid emptiness of the floor in front of him. Almost immediately the light on the back of the plate flashed red and he paused.
Pressure pads. As predicted.
Moving the plate slowly over the spot where the light had changed color, he quickly identified an area that he circled with white chalk. Repeating this procedure, he worked his way methodically across the room, moving in controlled, precise movements. Five minutes later and he had reached the far wall, a trail of small white circles in his wake.
The room was exactly as the photos had shown it and had the distinctive smell of new money and old furniture. A large Victorian partners' desk dominated, a masculine marriage of polished English oak and Italian leather that reminded him of the interior of a 1920s Rolls-Royce. Behind the desk, the wall was lined with what looked like the remnants of a once substantial private library, now presumably scattered across the world according to auction lots.
The two sidewalls that ran up to the window were painted a sandy gray and symmetrically hung with a series of drawings and paintings, four down each wall. He did not have to look closely to recognize them -- Picasso, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Klimt. But Tom was not there for the paintings, nor for the decoy safe he knew lay behind the third picture on the left. He had learned not to be greedy.
Instead, he picked his way back through the chalk circles to the edge of the silk rug that filled the floor between the desk and the window, its colors shimmering in the pale moonlight. With his back to the window, he gripped one corner of the rug and threw it back. Underneath, the wood was slightly darker where it had been shielded from the bleaching sun.
Kneeling, he placed his gloved hands flat on the floor and slid them slowly across the dry wooden surface. About two feet in front of him, the tips of his fingers sensed a slight ridge in the wood. He moved his hands apart along the ridge, until he reached what felt like a corner on both sides. Placing his knuckles on these corners, he leaned forward with all his weight.
With a faint click, a two-foot square panel sank down and then sprang up about half an inch higher than the rest of the floor. It was hinged at the far end and he folded the panel back on itself so that it lay flat revealing a gleaming floor safe.
The safe manufacturing and insurance industries cooperate on the security ratings of safes. Manufacturers regularly submit their products to independent testing by the Underwriters Laboratory, or UL, who in return issue the safe with a Residential Security Container Label that allows the insurers to accurately determine the relevant insurance premium.
The safe that Tom had revealed had, according to its freshly affixed label, been rated TXTL 60. In other words, it had been found to successfully resist entry for a net assault time of 60 minutes. It was one of the highest ratings that UL could give.
Even so, it took Tom just eight and a half seconds to open it ...
Excerpted from The Double Eagle by James Twining Copyright © 2005 by James Twining.
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