They are the most valuable coins on earth . . .
Only a handful still exist, each one worth millions . . .
Now they have vanished from an impenetrable
fortress . . . and the killings have begun.
Somehow, impossibly, someone has invaded Fort Knox and stolen five of the world's last remaining Double Eagles -- the $20 gold coin ordered destroyed by President Roosevelt during the Great Depression. Now, one has resurfaced during an autopsy in France -- in the stomach of a murdered priest.
Disgraced FBI agent Jennifer Browne needs to recover the priceless coins to resuscitate her stalled career -- and her investigation is pointing her toward Tom Kirk, a brilliant international art thief who wants to get out of the game. But Kirk's only chance for freedom -- and survival -- is to find the missing coins, joining Browne, an unlikely ally, on a breakneck race across the globe and into the lethal heart of a shocking conspiracy of greed and power . . . and death.
About the Author
James Twining graduated from Oxford University with a degree in French literature. His first Tom Kirk adventure, The Double Eagle, was published with great success on both sides of the Atlantic. He lives in London with his wife and their two children.
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.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have James Twining marked as one of my favorite Authors. Read this book and you will be captivated and will keep reading until you are finished.
The autopsy of a dead priest brings to light a 1933 Gold Eagle. Only 5 such coins were issued and all five were recalled and supposed to be in Fort Knox. Such is the beginning of this predictable, clumsy and fast-paced novel where a disgraced FBI agent is forced to work with a jewel-thief to figure who, how, when and why. This is a first novel and the first in a series the premise was interesting enough to make me buy it in hardcover but I'll wait for the rest of the series to be available in paperback.
What really makes this book stand out from all the others is its unique achievements of narrating a gripping tale, peppering it with fascinating nuggets of information, and illuminating it with well-turned prose. There are many page-turners on the market, but none with the same richness of detail and refinement of language. The author has evidently researched his subject thoroughly, and takes pleasure in sharing historical and cultural insights that makes you feel you are learning something at the same time as enjoying the read. And while Twining could simply have used the same turns of phrase that typically propel this type of story along, he constantly comes up with novel and arresting images that mark him out as a serious novelist in the making. Twining has raised the bar for all thriller writers, and it remains to be seen if he is the only one to meet the new standard when he releases his next book
On April 5, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt claiming a national emergency issued Executive Order 6102. With this declaration, FDR directed citizens to hand in their horde of gold whether it is be coin, bullion or certificates to the Federal reserve system by 1 May or face criminal charges. The gold coins including the $20.00 Double Eagle were melted down with five stored as a memento locked way in Fort Knox. Seventy years later, a gold coin surfaced in the throat of a mutilated priest found floating in the Seine in Paris. Someone broke into Fort Knox and stole the coin. FBI Agent Jennifer Browne sees the gold coin caper as a chance to redeem a career that recently took a bad blow due to an error in judgment on her part. She assumes former CIA Agent and retired jewel thief Tom Kirk, who has the requisite skills needed to successfully break into the highly guarded installation and steal the coin. That is until she meets him in England. He wants to clear his name and she her reputation so they team up. --- This is a terrific thriller that uses the true story of the Double Eagle as background enabling the exhilarating action-packed story line to stay anchored in reality. The story line is fast-paced as readers accompany the protagonists and others as the adventure moves back and forth between several American locations, Paris, London, the Netherlands, and Turkey. Readers will appreciate the anti-heroic Tom and commiserate with beleaguered Jennifer who is not sure she should trust her rascally companion, but has no other choice. James Twining provides a fabulous thriller that never allows the audience a chance to catch their breath. --- Harriet Klausner