Diamonds in the Shadow
is a young adult thriller novel by Caroline B. Cooney about a family of African refugees who arrive in America at the home of protagonist Jared Finch, whose parents have agreed to host the family for three months until they can find work and living quarters in America. Jared is not thrilled about the arrival of these new refugees, and becomes even more confused when they appear in his home and seem to have never met each other before. Jared tries to get to the bottom of the Amabo family's mysteries as a fifth refugee travels through America looking for a package that was stolen from him, which he intends to get back no matter the cost.
The book opens with Jared and the Finch family awaiting the arrival of the Amabo family, who are traveling from a war-torn region in Africa and hoping to find new lives in America. Jared's father, Mr. Finch, runs a church, and when the church can't find a home for the Amabo family, Jared's father makes the decision to take them in. Jared is outraged at the news – particularly because he has no intention of sharing his room with a stranger. His sister Mopsy, however, is overjoyed, and hopes that the Amabo family will have a daughter her age that she can befriend.
The arrival of the Amabos however, does not go as the Finch family expected. Celestine and Andre, the two adults in the family, are quite pleasant and speak good English, so they can easily communicate with the Finch's. However, Andre had both his hands cut off in the war, and he cannot work or do any household tasks until after the prosthetic hands he requested from a doctor are designed and fitted for him. Celestine is also kind, and quickly gets a job at a hotel as a maid, but she refuses to learn how to drive, making more work for the Finch family as they shuttle her to and from her shifts.
The two children in the family, Mattu and Alake, are also mysterious. Mattu is incredibly smart and well-spoken, and is thrilled to attend school. He carries with him two boxes that he says contain his grandparents ashes. His sister, Alake, is not nearly as well-adjusted. She refuses to eat, talk, or bathe herself, and must be taken care of like an infant. She won't wash her hair, and it runs wild. Jared feels that Alake is more like a zombie than a person, and begins to wonder how he will live down bringing her to school with him.
The strangest thing about the Amabo family is that they don't seem to know a lot about each other – particularly not for close relatives. Jared begins to think, as the weeks go on, that it is almost as if the family met each other for the first time in the airport. Wondering about his suspicions, Jared goes into the room he shares with Mattu and begins looking through his belongings. In the boxes that Mattu claimed were full of ashes, Jared finds dozens of enormous, uncut blood diamonds. Immediately, Jared realizes that something has gone horribly wrong.
As Jared investigates, his father struggles with his partner in a church renovation project, who embezzled $750,000 and gambled the money away. Mopsy begins to thaw the frozen heart of Alake, who she learns witnessed such impossible atrocities in the war that she essentially became catatonic. Meanwhile, the presence of a fifth refugee is made known – his name is Victor, and he is looking for the diamonds that were stolen from him. Cooney slowly reveals that Victor is a warlord who terrorized people back in Africa, and he killed the real Amabo family after they refused to help him smuggle his diamonds into the United States. Now, his diamonds are lost, and the refugees that he found to take the place of the Amabos are nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately for the fake Amabo family and their hosts, Victor's presence is more of a threat than anybody bargained for. The blood diamonds soon become a hazard not only for Mattu and the others, but for the entire household as Victor gets closer and closer to his prize.
Caroline B. Cooney is the author of dozens of best-selling mystery, horror, and thriller books for middle grade and young adult readers. Some of her books include Flight #116 is Down
, Hush Little Baby
, and Fatal Bargain.
She has also written the Janie Johnson series, the Vampire's Promise trilogy, the Time Traveler's Quartet and the Losing Christina series. She has won a number of awards for her work, including a YALSA award and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.