Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Baroness #2: Diamonds Are For Dying

The Baroness #2: Diamonds Are For Dying, by Paul Kenyon
March, 1974 Pocket Books

The Baroness Penelope St. John-Orsini returns a mere month after the first volume of the series, The Ecstasy Connection, this time heading south into Brazil where she must infiltrate and destroy a militant colony of neo-Nazis.

These Fourth Reichers have developed a newfangled laser system which is powered by diamonds; the Baroness and her team have further been tasked with either confiscating this new weapons technology or destroying it. Along the way she finds the time to implement several new spy gadgets, have lots of graphic sex, and admire herself in various mirrors.

The Nazis are under the command of Heidrig, a high-ranking SS officer who served under Hitler himself. Now Heidrig lives in a fortress in the Brazilian jungle, surrounded by his fellow old-school Nazis and a new generation who retain the same fervor despite being raised in Brazil. The Baroness, again using her cover as a globetrotting model with her multi-ethnic team of fashion consultants and photographers, uses her beauty to lure Heidrig in so she can get a special invite into his fortress.

One of Heidrig's men is a waifish youth who is treated with respect by the older men, a psychotic punk named Horst who gets his kicks torturing women and feeding traitors to pirhana. It turns out of course that Horst is Hitler Junior; Heidrig reveals that Hitler didn't die in Berlin. Instead, Heidrig and his fellows snuck the Fuhrer into Brazil with them; and, before his psychosis-ravaged death, Hitler impregnated a local wench.

Despite this the villains this time out are no match for the Baroness and her team. You'd think born-again Nazis would make for some great opponents, but really they don't pose much of a threat. Even Horst is dealt with rather quickly. Unlike The Ecstasy Connection, which featured several well-staged action sequences throughout, Diamonds Are For Dying saves the fireworks for the end, which would be fine if they weren't so anti-climactic. For the most part the action on hand lacks the novelty of the previous installment, save for the bit where the Baroness fights off several Nazis while dressed in fetish lingerie. Her spytoys this time out include a bra-strap which when heated forms into a sturdy bow with a heavy pull, shoes which conceal plastique, and a grappel-firing gun.

Like I wrote, Diamonds Are For Dying was published a mere month after The Ecstasy Connection, and it reads like it. This novel is so rushed that it comes off like a carbon copy of its predecessor. Here again we meet the Baroness at one of her lavish parties, where again she has sex with a stranger, during which she's again alterted of her new mission. When arriving in her target location of Brazil, she is accosted by an attractive local man who has an air of mystery about him -- just as she was approached by a similar mysterious man in The Ecstasy Connection. And here too, despite her concerns the Baroness has sex with the guy. And here too, her teammates are attacked while following him.

On and on -- the entire novel comes off like a retread of The Ecstasy Connection, only with Brazil replacing Hong Kong and with half of the thrills. This is especially apparent in the sex scenes, which happen back-to-back. It's funny in a way; we read this super-detailed sex sequence between the Baroness and Silvio, her Latin lover...after which they'll exchance a few lines of dialog...and then they go right at it again, in even more detail. I admire the Baroness' sex drive, but it all comes off like padding, like a quick and dirty way to reach the page count.

Last time I wondered who "Paul Kenyon" was; thanks to the knowledgeable fans over at the Baroness Yahoo group, it appears that "Kenyon" was really Donald Moffitt. The jury's still out on if he wrote all of the 8 published books in the series (it's certain he wrote a few of the installments that weren't published), but at any rate Diamonds Are For Dying seems to have come from the same pen as the author who gave us The Ecstasy Connection. It just isn't nearly as good.


P said...

Interesting review. The Baroness yahoo group has some discussion about the real author of the series. Lyle Kenyon Engel might have conceived the idea for the series as he is a book packager. But definitely, Donald Moffatt wrote all 8 novels. You can read here:



Dan said...

Original Baroness cover paintings have turned up at:


P said...

According to Donald Moffitt, "Diamonds Are For Dying" was actually the first Baroness to be written. Ecstasy Connection was written afterwards, but the people at Simon & Shuster decided to publish EC as Baroness #1 instead.