Review: “Death Takes a Diamond,” Dean Wesley Smith

Pros: Great concept!
Cons: Everything might as well be magic
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Dean Wesley Smith’s novella/short novel Death Takes a Diamond: A Mary Jo Assassin Novel (Volume 2) is a fantastic concept. A couple of short, unassuming women are actually thousand-year-old lesbian assassins, and they’ve just been given a job that smells. One J.T. “Tate” Sones has hired them to take out one Bonnie Malak, but they’ve been utterly unable to find any connection between Bonnie and Tate. In fact, they’re starting to wonder if Bonnie herself might be an assassin–and there’s one way to find out. They’re just going to have to ask her. Due to various circumstances they end up taking out Tate and stealing various accounts full of money, but they’ve stumbled onto some sort of billion-dollar diamond-smuggling ring. And just to make things stranger, after Tate dies, he contacts them asking when the job on Bonnie will be completed.

Despite being book two in the series, it stands well alone. The only thing that you’ll be left wanting for is more information about this mysterious order of assassins everyone seems to belong to. It does seem a little odd that there are so many assassins they keep tripping over each other.

I love that Mary Jo is not your standard tall, statuesque female assassin. She also has a sense of humor, as does Jean (her partner, lover, and roommate). They’re fun characters, and very light-hearted considering what they do for a living.

This is an unabashed wish-fulfillment fantasy. It is not a hugely tense thriller, because there’s little tension as to whether anything will work out. The ladies are so good at what they do that it might as well be magic. They can hack any security system, leave any electronic trail of breadcrumbs they want to, get into any location (even when there are 30 men guarding an apartment they somehow get in unnoticed). They also have instant-acting drugs for every occasion, from things that make people totally docile to truth drugs. We don’t get any sense of how they do these things; it’s just… well, like I said, magic. If that’s the kind of story you’re looking for it’s a good one, but if you want detailed high-wire fights or high-tension sequences you won’t find it here.

I will say that the story and scheming are nice and twisty and there are a couple of good surprises along the way. I’m a little ambivalent in how I feel about this book, but ultimately it’s a fun story. I can’t for the life of me figure out if this should get a 3/5 or a 4/5, so I guess I’ll label it a 3.5 out of 5.

Content note for explicit male masturbation (to humorous ends), which is really kind of weird considering it’s a book in which the main characters are lesbians (or maybe bi, but at least they’re in a lesbian relationship).

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