Gerald A. Browne. 18mm Blues (1993) 372 pp.
Publisher’s description: “Pearls. Cleopatra gave them to Marc Antony in the most expensive meal in history. Hindus place them in the mouths of the dead. And every year, from the Far East to New York’s diamond district, they bring billions of dollars on the open and not-so-open market. Grady Bowman is a creature of that market. But Grady Bowman is not the man he used to be. He’s out of a job and out of a marriage, and he’s madly in love with a beautiful, eccentric San Francisco artist who has just tried to kill herself. Julia Elkins is a changed person, too. Saved from years of loneliness and her own despair, she accompanies Grady to Rangoon and the annual Gem Emporium to help him set up his own gem business. Neither Grady nor Julia can guess that their long journey has become intertwined with a bloody incident carried out decades before. Off the coast of Burma a remarkable discovery was made. Two Japanese amas—women pearl divers—retrieved a handful of unheard-of blue pearls, 18 millimeters in diameter. As a reward, they were savagely murdered by the ship’s captain, whose only regret was that one person—the young Amerasian son of one of the divers—escaped the massacre. In Thailand, Grady and Julia come upon a gifted gem cutter and an odd series of events drive them closer to their fate and a fearful day of reckoning. For just beyond the last step in their quest lie the blue waters of the Adaman, and within them, waiting to be uncovered, the truth surrounding a bed of oysters guarding the most extraordinary blue pearls ” Set against the backdrop of the secretive, highly lucrative international gem market, an elegant mystery of murder and revenge that reaches from San Francisco’s Potrero Hill to the jasmine-scented coast of Burma.
Setting: San Francisco (Potrero Hill), Southeast Asia