Monday, June 16, 2014

Guest Post by Kim Foster

Hello, readers! Last year we were introduced to Kim Foster's AB&T series with A Beautiful Heist. Now her follow up, A Magnificent Crime is out and in honor of that release Kim has prepared a guest post for your reading pleasure!

But first, a bit about A Magnificent Crime to whet your appetite:

Everyone has a talent. Some are just more legal than others. 

Cat Montgomery is a natural-born thief with a special gift for stealth—or at least she thought so. Years ago, she stole from the diamond-hoarding businessman Albert Faulkner III. Now he wants revenge, and he forces Cat to plan a heist of the infamous Hope Diamond while it’s on loan to the Louvre in Paris. If she fails the mission, he'll wreak bloody havoc on her loved ones. But the stakes are raised even higher when Cat discovers that stealing the Hope is not only an impossible task, it's a cursed one. . . 

Meanwhile, Cat's boyfriend, FBI agent Jack Barlow, is tracking a fierce criminal known as the Gargoyle, running into Interpol and resistance among his agency. As he follows the trail to Paris, where Cat is, their missions entwine in ways neither of them would have suspected. . .

Super fun!

And now, I'll kick things over to Kim Foster and her piece on the famous Hope Diamond!

The Curse of the Hope Diamond 

Cat Montgomery, a professional jewel thief, is the main character in my Agency of Burglary & Theft series. In A MAGNIFICENT CRIME (book two in the series) she's blackmailed into staging a heist of the world’s most famous diamond—the Hope Diamond—while it’s on loan to the Louvre in Paris. 

Trouble is, not only is this task impossible...it’s also cursed.

The curse of the Hope Diamond isn’t something I fabricated for the purposes of my story, of course; it’s a legend with a long history. A deep blue diamond of 45.52 carats—the size of a walnut—the Hope Diamond should only be worth 40 million dollars, tops, based on its weight and color. But it was recently valued at 250 million dollars, and this is entirely because of its infamous legend. Specifically, the curious number of deaths and tragedies that have been blamed on the Hope Diamond.

Hope Diamond photo credit: wikimedia commons
The story begins in the 17th century with a French explorer and merchant named Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, on expedition in India. We are told he discovered a large blue diamond there, selling it to the French court upon his return to Europe. However, other accounts claim he didn't merely discover the diamond, but in fact stole it from a Hindu idol of the goddess Sita—the blasphemous act that unleashed the curse on not just himself, but anyone who would ever possess the stone. 

Here are just a few of the stories linked with the Hope Diamond:

· Princess de Lambelle, a frequent wearer of the diamond, was killed in 1792 by a mob in Paris, raped, decapitated, and mutilated. 

· King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the stone’s most famous owners, were beheaded by the guillotine during the French Revolution.

· Sultan Abdul Hamid of Turkey bought the Hope Diamond in 1908 and gave it to his favorite concubine. Within a year he stabbed her to death, became a paranoid recluse, and was dethroned. He died in captivity several years later. 

Evalyn McLean photo credit: wikimedia commons
· In 1911 socialite Evalyn McLean bought the Hope from famous jeweler Pierre Cartier. In the years that followed, Evalyn McLean’s son died in a car crash, her daughter committed suicide at the age of 25, Evalyn herself became addicted to morphine, and her husband was declared legally insane, eventually dying in a sanatorium.

And those are just a few examples of the string of misfortunes tied to the Hope Diamond. Of course, the curse has been refuted by many authorities over the years. A commonly given explanation is to claim the curse was Cartier's fabrication--they assert he embroidered stories of the curse to entice Evalyn McLean to buy the Hope. (The power of a good storyteller, yes?) And while that may be true...how do they explain what happened to her after she purchased the Hope?

Harry Winston acquired the Hope in 1947 when he purchased the entire McLean collection. By this time, the curse was entrenched in the public’s consciousness. When Winston announced he would donate the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian in 1958, the public panicked. Many Americans wrote hostile letters and signed petitions, urging the national museum not to accept it, for fear the entire country would be cursed. 

Nevertheless, Winston sent the gem to the museum in 1958. But how to ship such a precious jewel? In a plainly-wrapped package by US mail, of course. Winston famously explained that by using the postal service, he had the whole US government protecting it. “It’s the safest way to mail gems,” he said.

Maybe not so safe for the postal worker, however. 

Within a year of delivering the package to the Smithsonian, postman James Todd faced a string of tragedies: his leg was accidentally crushed by a truck, his wife died of a heart attack, his dog was strangled on its leash, and his home had burned to the ground.

In recent decades, the curse has been quiet. In fact, some say it has brought nothing but good luck to the Smithsonian, boosting attendance levels and helping the museum to build a world-class gem collection.

In spite of that, the legend persists. During my recent book launch party on Twitter for A MAGNIFICENT CRIME, one reader said she’d seen the Hope in the Smithsonian several years ago...and she’d been terrified to go near it.

And what of Tavernier—the merchant who first found the diamond in India? Well, his fate is shrouded in mystery. While some say he died in his sleep at an old age, other accounts describe a more grisly end: torn apart by wild dogs on a trip to Russia.

But perhaps that’s just a story, like the others. A piece of fiction, nothing more. 

Ah...but there’s power in a good story, isn’t there?

- Kim Foster, June 2014

About the author: Kim Foster is the author of the Agency of Burglary & Theft Series, a series of novels about a professional female jewel thief. Kim has a typical background for someone who writes thrillers about thieves and spies and criminals: she has a degree in medicine and is a practising family doctor. (Don’t worry, it doesn’t make much sense to her friends and family, either.) 

She’s addicted to yoga, loves to travel, and has a clinical weakness for dark chocolate with sea salt. Online, you can find her blogging about her left-brain, right-brain mash-up on www.kimfoster.com. Kim lives with her husband and their two young sons in Victoria, BC, where she's hard at work on her next book. And drinking a ridiculous amount of coffee. 

For more on Kim Foster, you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Big thanks to Kim for being on the blog today! A Magnificent Crime is out now from eKensington.

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