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The Sapphire Sea Hardcover – Large Print, April 20, 2004

29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his crackling debut, Robinson ignites the senses in a mad charge through the underbelly of sweltering, perilous Madagascar. Jewel dealer Lonny Cushman is working out of Diego-Suarez, "a Casablanca without a Bogart," buying low-quality sapphires for his father in bulk. On a drive through the King's Reserve, he sees a flash of blue "a glimpse of the divine" so brilliant that he crashes his motorcycle. A peasant is holding a giant sapphire up to the light. At its heart, there is a six-pointed star; it is the biggest, most perfect gem ever discovered. The peasant wants 66 zebu the oxen that represent spiritual wealth to the Malagasy and Lonny agrees. Now all he has to do is smuggle the jewel out of the country. Standing in the way are murderous army officers, crooked police and a despotic ruler called "The First Rooster" not to mention Malika, a beautiful, seductive African-American CIA agent. Aid from his jeweler-dealer father not forthcoming, Lonny makes his way across the island, telling lies and dodging bullets, and finally makes it to sea. His adventures aren't quite over, though he still has to sell the stone and, if he wants to see his daughter and estranged wife again, make it stateside. Robinson, who himself has traded in gemstones in Madagascar, crafts a briskly paced and gripping read, full of rich details about corundum stones, African geography and Lonny's maturation from Page Six playboy to would-be doting father. Readers may be dissuaded from visiting the island, but this breathless experience is fun all the way.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Meet Lonny Cushman, an American gem dealer in Madagascar. He's living in the city of Diego-Suarez, "a Casablanca without a Bogart," buying illegally mined sapphires and smuggling them out of the country. But his livelihood is in jeopardy: the government is converting the King's Reserve, the source of Lonny's gems, to a national reserve, and he is about to be arrested for unlawful mining--which is really lousy timing because he has just found the world's largest and most perfect star sapphire, a gem that will bring him a fortune if he can get the darned thing out of the country. Soon he is being pursued by local bureaucrats and assorted military types, with only his wits and a beautiful CIA agent to save him--and he is not too sure about the CIA agent. Robinson, who once made his living trading in precious stones in Africa, may be a first-time novelist, but he writes like a veteran. His dialogue is sharp, his characters appealing, his narrative style engagingly playful. A second Lonny Cushman adventure would be most welcome. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 365 pages
  • Publisher: Thorndike Press; 1 edition (April 20, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786263482
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786263486
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.7 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,721,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sheldon R. Waxman on February 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The intelligent thriller genre book requires three elements in addition to being thrilling and suspenseful:

1. It should be rational and believable.

2. You should learn something from it.

3. It should have a chase, a quest.

This book meets the requirements and in addition has a good sex scene.

Lonny Cushman is a gemologist who finds the perfect sapphire. He is in the backwater island of Madagascar. Everybody wants to take the sapphire from him. He is a lonely and troubled guy. His wealthy father has abandoned him. He in turn has abandoned his wife and daughter. He is an interesting but flawed protagonist.

Things heat up, as those who want the sapphire will kill him to get it. He has to get off the island to sell the sapphire and reunite with his child. After a harrowing escape and the sale of the sapphire for 100 million dollars, his wishes are fulfilled.

We learn a lot from this book about many things that are unknown to most people-gems, the history, geography and customs of the natives of Madagascar, different languages. It is much like a travelogue in this regard.

The writing is poetic and descriptive. There's a good sex scene. It has a great start that bogs somewhat in the middle. The chase is exciting, if somewhat unbelievable. The ending is satisfying. Lonny is a nice guy, able to communicate with the common people.

The author spent a year in Africa and Madagascar paid for by the Institute of Current World Affairs (wish I could get a gig like that). He is also a professional gemologist so you know that you are getting top-notch information.

All in all, I liked it and you will too. It's a good first novel. I hope that institute sends him on another venture.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Tipple VINE VOICE on July 24, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Lonny Cushman, bullied by a domineering father as well as wife, is in Madagascar on a semi-permanent exile buying stones for his father. Lonny is bored, unhappy and seriously depressed while he daydreams of finding the perfect stone and proving his father wrong in so many ways. Through bribery and contacts as well as an affinity for languages he has managed to sort of exist in the daily life of Madagascar but still there are limits and he truly does not fit in here anymore than he does back home. Everything changes when he comes across a perfect and rather large sapphire stone one Easter Sunday.

The sale is made with the peasant that found it and Lonny now has a problem bigger than the stone itself. How to get it home despite obstacles of claimed ownership by others, corrupt politicians and military police, and the general lawless anarchy that is the culture and way of life on the island. Not only is an incredible amount of money at stake and vindication of himself, his very life is at stake as he begins his perilous journey home with little help or support.

While billed on the jacket copy as a thriller, this novel is actually more of a slow moving atmospheric detailed read of the culture and people of the country. Long and extremely detailed sections are devoted to the history, religions, and politics of Madagascar, past and present. Other long and very detailed sections are devoted to the economic conditions, the climate, American foreign policy, its place in the world and the harsh strain of everyday life. The author extensively traveled and worked in the area and what he has created here is a slow moving story that uses those experiences in depth to provide a valuable insight into the region while at the same time offering an adventure.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Nichols on November 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Witty, lyrical and exotic, with just the right touch of ribaldness, John Robinson's The Sapphire Sea will take you on a ride you won't soon forget. Robinson is a compelling stylist who never forgets his obligations as a storyteller -- his gifts of place and character are very fine -- which makes him a wonderful discovery for the reader with standards.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kara J. Jorges VINE VOICE on September 26, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Wealthy Lonny Cushman has run far from home to get away from his father, his soon-to-be ex-wife, and his failure with his daughter. Living in the town of Diego-Suarez on Madagascar, Lonny spends his days glad-handing the locals and bribing officials while he not-quite-legally buys and sells sapphires. Things come to a head rather quickly when Lonny stumbles across a peasant with the sapphire of a lifetime and buys it for $20,000. He barely has time to return to his home in Diego-Suarez before things start to happen. The American embassy wants him off Madagascar for political reasons, and when rumors of the amazing stone he purchased start to circulate, his life is in danger. With a murder pinned on him, Lonny goes on the run with a French expatriate through the bush, fraught with many dangers of its own. Suddenly, Lonny's whole life has come down to one thing: getting off Madagascar alive...with the sapphire.

It's hard to put a label on this book. Suspense doesn't suit it, and while there is plenty happening, the third-world pace at which things unfold precludes it from the action genre. Considerable time is spent on Lonny's introspection, without it becoming cloying. There is little time to dwell on an epiphany when one is on the run. In addition to the well-woven story, the book gives an excellent picture of life in Madagascar and other far-flung places in the world where the customs and rules are very different from what we know. Succeeding from many angles, this book wins high marks.
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