The Bottom Line: For fans of Sheldon Siegal, Red Sun Over Africa is an explosive and compelling financial thriller about an executive’s journey to save her company and herself.
Sarah, CFO of Consolidated Diamonds, has worked tirelessly to achieve her lofty position in one of the world’s most lucrative gem companies. The company is a multinational powerhouse that has been giving global leader De Beers a run for its money.
But as Red Sun Over Africa begins, Sarah is hit with some alarming news: the company is quickly running out of diamonds. The company’s best option to save itself is to acquire a 50% interest in the world’s largest diamond mine, which is up for auction by Botswana. Sarah and her CEO assemble a plan to outmaneuver De Beers, who would love nothing more than to put Consolidated out of business.
Meanwhile, Wang Jin, son of the leader of the Chinese Communist Party, also has his eyes on the mine. But first, Jin – whose appetite for drugs and women is established early on – has to get his hands on the money to do so. Despite his father’s influence, his initial request from the Bank of China has been denied. That won’t curb his insatiable ambition for even a moment.
Author James E. Merriman’s novel, crafted in concise chapters that make for fast reading, wastes no time in establishing what’s at stake for Sarah and her boss. The anticipation that Sarah is not just up against De Beers, but also a truly dangerous villain such as Jin, creates great suspense. But the book becomes truly unputdownable once Africa becomes the primary setting. Merriman provides some priceless insight into Jin’s mind as he’s traveling under the name “Bruce Lee” and staying at a luxury game preserve (“Africa was full of women they could abuse”). In comparison, Sarah’s circumstances are substantially different, as she soon discovers that it’s not just her company that is at risk. She’ll have to fight for her life, and unlike so many financial thrillers, Merriman deftly takes the action out of the boardroom and into the bush.
CFOs are rarely positioned as heroes, so give Merriman credit for originality and execution. Simultaneously, he infuses the story with discussions about racial identity throughout. In the early going, these passages primarily pertain to Sarah and her desire to be accepted for her qualifications as opposed to her appearance. But as the book goes on, Merriman adds global context (at one point, a character opines, “Here, no one cares about the color of one’s skin, but Americans seem to obsess over it”). By the book’s end, these observations add up to a powerful and satisfying conclusion.