Seizing Amber: A Novel

Overview

From the streets of New York to the gardens of Paris and the ornate drawing rooms of Renaissance Florence, Seizing Amber follows a high stakes quest for one of the worlds most valuable treasures. The Amber Room-an exquisite chamber made of amber panels that was stolen from the Russians during World War II-holds not only its priceless value, but the key to the lives of those who seek it.

Now in the post-Cold War present, Isaiah Hawkins, chief ...
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2001 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Brand new! No marks, no wear. Sewn binding. Paper over boards. 272 p. Audience: General/trade.

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Naperville 2001 Hard cover First edition. First edition first printing New in new dust jacket. First edition first printing of the author's first novel. In fine / fine unread ... condition. Glued binding. Paper over boards. 272 p. Audience: General/trade. Read more Show Less

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Overview

From the streets of New York to the gardens of Paris and the ornate drawing rooms of Renaissance Florence, Seizing Amber follows a high stakes quest for one of the worlds most valuable treasures. The Amber Room-an exquisite chamber made of amber panels that was stolen from the Russians during World War II-holds not only its priceless value, but the key to the lives of those who seek it.

Now in the post-Cold War present, Isaiah Hawkins, chief of a U.S. intelligence agency, discovers that the Amber Room is being offered for sale. In a quest to influence the worlds political stage, Hawkins sets out on a mission to capture the Room and the power it holds. In a whirlwind of intrigue and suspense, Hawkins team, including a street-smart blackmailer and a sexy but dangerous agent who seemingly has nothing to lose, must outsmart devious and exotic competitors to seize the Amber Room and find what matters to them most.

Jonathan Harris weaves a tight and gripping plot with a grand love story. And just when the tension reaches a boiling point, Harris delivers an ending that drops the reader through a series of unexpected trap doors.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It's disappointing when a thriller equipped with a complex plot, international settings and a varied cast of intriguing characters never really comes to life on the page. Harris's debut involves the search for the legendary Amber Room, the $150-million lost treasure of the czars, which disappeared (and was presumed destroyed) during WWII. When young attorney Sarah Ridell offers information about the room (now a collection of amber panels) to Isaiah Hawkins and his team of agency operatives it's never clear what agency, but presumably it's the CIA Hawkins comes up with a scheme to use it to influence the upcoming Russian election. Ridell is thrown from a window and the hunt for the room becomes entangled with the hunt for her killer. Added to the mix are Ben Russo, an enterprising New York detective; Kathryn Blaine, Hawkins's violent and erratic operative; some long-lost letters of Lenin; and an even longer-lost branch of the Medici family all of which should add up to the kind of fast-moving pulp thriller that Robert Ludlum could have created in his sleep. Unfortunately, Harris doesn't quite pull it off. The writing, halting and tentative, is frequently overwhelmed by useless detail. Secondary characters are developed instead of those who are more essential to the plot. Blaine, for instance, with her romantic entanglements and checkered past, is given short shrift compared to Hawkins's in-house blackmailer, Ivo Jenkins. Harris shows much promise, but in the future he'll need to generate more narrative heat to turn his ingredients into really satisfying fare. In any case, Sourcebooks is hoping to create buzz with the offer of a free e-book download for 30 days. (Oct.) Copyright 2001Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Isaiah Hawkins, chief of a U.S. intelligence agency, heads a crew of colorful ex-agency types in an attempt to track down the Amber Room, which consists of 129 amber mosaic panels presumably stolen from the Soviets by the Germans during World War II. What is at stake, as news of the Amber Room's survival surfaces in the post-Cold War world, is not only a treasure of immense value but the fate of the upcoming Russian presidential elections. While the quest for the treasure mounts, a blackmailer plies his craft, an art historian motivated by greed and ambition ponders treason, and Kathryn Blair, a recovered agent-gone-bad, carries out a romance with an Italian aristocrat, who in turn may be involved in murder and who may know the whereabouts of the amber panels. Based on an actual treasure and inspired by The Maltese Falcon, this is an assured debut. Lean and forceful, with no false notes, it contains well-drawn characters, an intriguing plot, and a satisfying denouement. Highly recommended for all public libraries. Ronnie H. Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Blackmailers, spies, and aristocrats try to outsmart each other in the race to find an ancient chamber of divinely beautiful design. In a flurry of blink-and-you-missed-them scenes, first-novelist Harris introduces the reader to quite the array of characters and plot points. Like every good international thriller, this one has a shadowy, pseudo-CIA government agency called simply The Agency, this one headed by the urbane Isaiah Hawkins. Worried these days not so much with communist spies or toppling third-world governments, Hawkins is instead interested in an arcane piece of art history lore: The Amber Room. Designed in Prussia in the early 18th century, the glittering chamber covered in 129 pieces of amber was traded to Peter the Great, became a legendary Russian art treasure, and was ultimately stolen by the Nazis, lost and presumed destroyed in WWII. Hearing that it still exists, the Agency wants to retrieve the Amber Room and run an operation whereby the US-backed candidate in the Russian presidential election can claim that he has recovered this symbol of national pride and get a boost in the polls. Very early in the hunt for the Amber Room, however, a young woman only peripherally involved in the matter gets hurled to her death from the 39th floor of a Manhattan apartment building. Into the tangle of conspirators come corpulent blackmailer Ivo Jenkins, tough and sleek Agency operative Kathryn Blaire, a former Soviet defector, and a few members of a lost strand of the Medici family. After the initially confusing setup (and, it must be said, a driving plot device that never quite holds water), Harris streamlines his story considerably and sets about telling a workmanlike tale ofintrigue that holds a few surprises. A true and proper international thriller whose generously sketched characters quickly grow on you. First printing of 30,000
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781570717123
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/1/1997
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.54 (w) x 9.64 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Read an Excerpt


Chapter One


Ivo Jenkins shifted his weight, 288 pounds according to the hotel room scale, his new diet doing no good at all. His goal was 260, so that he would look good in a new tux for his baby girl's wedding. But dropping the pounds would have to wait: even if he had promised his wife and even if he was looking more and more like a black Sydney Greenstreet. His business being so often about the waiting—God favoring the patient and all that. Even if God maybe hadn't meant to apply that particular rule to him. He picked up the phone and called room service, contemplating something rare.

    It was nearly eleven on a warm summer night in the nation's capital. He slid over to the heavy suitcase that he'd let the bellhop carry up to the room and removed a metallic box the size of a stereo receiver. Dangling from its back were a jumble of cords and cables, too many for Ivo's taste. He preferred the old ways. But a man had to keep up with his profession: after all, slow buffalo got shot.

    He placed the box on a cheap veneer dresser and plugged the thinnest of the wires into a power outlet, bending the prongs slightly so as to fit them into the much-abused socket. Then he ran a coaxial cable from the box to the room's television set. A small green light blinked on in the center of the box's power button, which Ivo depressed slowly with his thumb.

    From the darkness of the television screen emerged a pixelated image of a bored late night newscaster. The newscaster reading scripted words from a teleprompter about an upcoming presidential election in Russia, with pictures of the candidates drifting across the screen. Seemed the Russian electorate had a choice between an old time commie with a new style western haircut, and a new style western-educated reformer with an old time bad Russian suit. Neither one of them looked to Ivo like they went much for the ladies. But you never knew, and Ivo figured that somewhere in Russia there might have been a kindred soul, a member of the professional brotherhood, who might have been interested.

    Ivo personally liked to work closer to home, and he switched to the blank screen of channel 3, lowered the lights and settled back into a plaid armchair to wait, staring at the emptiness.

    He sat there without moving for thirty minutes until, at exactly midnight—God how he loved punctual people—he heard a quartet of footsteps reach a pause not twenty feet from him, in front of the door to the neighboring room.

    The lock opened with the click of an electronic keycard and, driven by an automated demon of its own, the television screen simultaneously flicked on in front of Ivo. In 21-inch color, a distinguished-looking white man in his early fifties stepped onto the screen and into a room identical to Ivo's own, right down to the plaid armchair. The man was lean and muscular, with silver gray hair, a square movie star jaw and a smile. A Charlton Heston type, wearing a two-thousand-dollar, hand-tailored, blue pinstripe suit. Soon enough Charlton was joined by another type altogether, a thin girl of maybe fifteen. She had long straight hair, light skin, and an oval face that belonged to a Modigliani portrait. Had Modigliani painted black girls.

    Charlton took his clothes off first, carefully and methodically: his pants draped with a perfect crease over a hanger, the jacket added and the set hung in the closet, his shirt and tie meriting a hanger of their own, well-shined shoes placed together under the foot of the bed, socks neatly folded and laid on a chair where they were thereafter joined by his white jockey shorts. All done in a manner that was meticulous—the manner of a man who had regular habits, who believed in an ordered world and his place in it.

    As the girl slid off her own skirt, she stole a single glance at Charlton standing there naked. She turned and offered a self-conscious glance in a mirror, then just looked away.

    They did more than enough. Did it twice, maybe a hat trick. After a while, Ivo closed his eyes and stopped watching. The girl was still a child, her body not fully developed, her breasts and hips more sharp than full. Charlton gave it to her best he could and when he was finally done, he dried his dick off with a tissue, stepped back into his fine clothing, handed the girl a couple of hundreds and went out the way he'd come in. Smiling.

    In return, Ivo Jenkins allowed himself the thinnest of possible smiles. Like its blood relatives, politics and sex, blackmail is a dark art of the possible. And Charlton was about to learn just how very possible blackmail could be.


* * *


    An unlabeled videocassette arrived via messenger the next afternoon at the still distinguished man's well-ordered office. A typed Post-It note suggesting, helpfully, that perhaps it would be best to view the tape in private.

    And so it was only that evening, watching in his living room as the first frame of the tape rolled, his wife an unlocked door away in the next room, that he realized the facts of his situation, and fear and anger took hold of James Washington Lancaster.


Excerpted from Seizing Amber by Jonathan Harris. Copyright © 2001 by Jonathan Harris. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2002

    A Can't-Put-It-Down Mystery Thriller Set in the Art World

    Absolutely, hands-down my favorite mystery thriller in years! Racing across continents through some tremendous cities -- New York, Florence, Paris, Moscow -- the CIA undertakes a covert effort to retrieve a fabulous old Russian work of art, The Amber Room. Lots of interested parties: the CIA, the Russian government, private collectors, and various others. Great characters -- an ex-CIA operative and thief who's trying to regain her role at the agency; a blackmailer unwillingly pulled into the chase; a NYC cop; the Russian-equivalent of the CIA chief, spies, collectors, greedy people, and more. Lots of great history and art woven throughout. Picked it up and couldn't put it down. Loved it as much or more than Sydney Sheldon, Thomas Harris and John Grisham!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2001

    plot twists galore

    seizing amber is a fast, fast read - i couldn't put it down (i stayed up almost all night reading it). lots of great characters, especially ivo, a super-clever blackmailer. lots of interesting history and so many plot twists i could never guess what was going to happen - a great read. i highly recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2001

    A great read, thoroughly enjoyable!!!

    A truly enjoyable read. The characters are rich and colorful. Lots of twists and turns. It kept my full interest. I found it difficult to put the book down. I strongly recommend!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2001

    great page turner

    from the first page to the last, jonathan harris keeps you on the edge of your seat by creating a great page turner. it was nice to be suprised while learning about the great piece of art, the amber room and all the rich history that surrounds this lost treasure. i read the book in two days. a must read for anyone who wants to escape for a few days into a wonderful land of mystery and passion with an amazing cast of characters. how did he come up with the likes of isaiah?

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