Our narrator is Jim Breen, who grew up among the youthful toughs on New York’s Cherry Street. He’s now the in-house investigator for Bender’s Insurance Company, and working the streets of Manhattan is a good deal for everyone because Breen is well-connected on both sides of the law.
An insured party had $80,000 in jewelry stolen in a home-invasion robbery. Rather than paying out the whole claim, Breen is hitting the streets with the plan of buying back the hot rocks for $30,000 — no questions asked. In order to make the deal happen, Breen needs to find the burglar to negotiate the deal.
For Breen, that means canvassing hoodlums that he grew up with on the streets. A particular childhood friend comes to mind who may have actually pulled off the heist, but what kind of reception is Breen likely to get when accusing any local hoodlum of a robbery?
Breen faces plenty of resistance along his unusual quest to give $30,000 away to a robber. The fistfight scenes are top-notch, and Breen really gets to kick some ass. Overall, The Knave of Diamonds was a solid, if unremarkable, hardboiled private eye novel that was perfectly-consistent with the genre output in 1959. If you like that type of thing, you’re bound to enjoy this one just fine.