I was lucky to lay my hands on a copy of a privately-published new fictional work about diamond exploration and intrigue. Fraudulent Fortune was written and published by Pattie Beales, a geologist currently working as a writer at The Northern Miner in Toronto, but she draws heavily on her 15 years of experience in the Northwest Territories.
The story revolves around two geologists. Robert is a frustrated resident geologist working for the government in Yellowknife, who yearns for warmer climes and the money to get there. The unwilling witness to a murder in Indonesia, Tom tries to escape the long reach of the Indonesian military by losing himself in the Northwest Territories. His life begins to unravel when by chance he bumps into Robert, who recognizes him in a bush camp.
The camp’s geologists have just discovered kimberlite. The unscrupulous Robert is quick to spot an opportunity for profit, and uses every means possible.
The story moves from the bush camp through Yellowknife to Vancouver Island and Mexico. The characters feel uncannily real, particularly everybody’s favourite camp cook, Rose, her unstable boyfriend Ben, and the down-on-his-luck street person Albert. The plot is loaded with twists and suspense, including a devastating apartment fire and a murder.
The strength of the book is its realistic descriptions of life in a diamond exploration camp. The dialogue is gritty, and perhaps would not have made it past the editor of a publishing house. The truly intriguing story populated by flesh-and-blood characters, made this book hard for me to put down, especially in the second half.
This is the author’s first novel and it shows. Much of the writing could be tightened up, and the design could be improved. Nevertheless it will be well received by readers interested in the world of mineral exploration.
Fraudulent Fortune by Pattie Beales
233 pages, paperback
$10 plus shipping ($2.50 in Canada, $5.50 U.S., $7 50 other)
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