About The Hard Way:
New York Private Investigator HELEN MCCORKENDALE’S childhood friend, JIMMY SCANLAN, has just opened January, the most lavish casino and hotel resort on the Las Vegas Strip. January is designed to resemble an ice palace in the middle of the desert and is filled with poolside ski slopes, ice rinks and an ice bar formed entirely of glacial-looking ice. Planned to bring a new level of drama to casino gambling, it’s attracting the rich and famous from all over the world.
After attending the gala grand opening, Helen returns to New York City and encourages her friend, LAUREL IMPERIOLE, Senior Editor at Women Now magazine, to create a get-away contest for readers offering a weekend at the hotel as the grand prize. The winner, DAWN CHAPMAN, a jewelry store employee from Cincinnati, Ohio, declares she has no knowledge of the contest and initially refuses the trip. Eventually persuaded by Laurel to accept, she arrives at the hotel and nearly faints on her way to her suite after passing the hotel’s elite meeting rooms where the International Diamond Dealers Consortium is having their annual meeting. She demands to be left alone and insists on returning home.
Jimmy finds her behavior suspicious and visits her in her suite to encourage her to participate in the main activity of the weekend: the Saturday afternoon pool party, after which he promises she can leave for Cincinnati on his private jet the next morning.
Later in the afternoon, when Jimmy arrives at a private area by the pool, near where Chapman is waiting for him, he discovers her dead body. She’s been murdered—an unusual double poisoning by Cyanide and diamond dust.
Suspicion falls on him when the police learn of the woman’s reluctance to accept the trip to January. Jimmy is desperate to protect his reputation and that of his hotel. Before the police arrive, he has Chapman’s suite searched and finds a diary that indicates she may not be who she says she is. It is written in the form of letters to a lover named Pieter and indicates she accepted the trip after she realized her good-meaning employer, Florence Ligeti, whose suspicions Chapman was afraid of arousing, entered her in the contest. It also details other aspects of her life in London as DEIRDRE THORNHILL and veiled threats to get even with Hendrik DeGrout, head of an Intrnational diamond company who is planning to unveil the world’s largest red diamond, the DeGrout Rouge, at the convention.
Hoping to find the real killer and avoid a scandal that could ruin his fledgling business—something his biggest competitor, CLIVE DRUMMOND, would love to see—Jimmy calls Helen who returns to Las Vegas to investigate the crime privately.
Helen is suspicious of Drummond, a Namibian and English entrepreneur, who has ties not only to the hotel business but also to the international diamond trade. He is accompanied everywhere by his associate and bodyguard, DIRK KRUGER, an Afrikaner whom Helen distrusts immediately. Drummond and Jimmy, fought over the land on which January sits and Helen learns Jimmy, who called in a favor to win the diamond convention, is now concerned Drummond has discovered this and will use it against him.
Helen asks Laurel to contact Chapman’s employers in Cincinnati to find out more about her. When her employer searches her apartment, she finds photos and a passport in the Thornhill name and turns them over to Laurel.
At the same time, Helen asks AARON GERRARD, a New York City Detective, and Laurel’s former boyfriend, to use his contacts with Interpol to try to establish Thornhill’s true identity. Laurel passes on her information to Aaron. He and Interpol Inspector, RICHARD BELLERT, connect Thornhill to PIETER de BRUIN, her secret lover and the head of an international ring of jewelry thieves wanted all over Europe. Evidence suggests they were planning to steal the DeGrout Rouge diamond on the first stop of its worldwide tour at New York’s American Museum of Natural History.
Helen is attacked and warned off the case but persists in her investigation. She discovers Kruger and de Bruin ran rival gangs in Europe and Kruger killed Thornhill when he recognized her as she checked into the hotel. When de Bruin learns of her death, he kills Kruger for revenge then disappears after leaving a note for Helen, who finds the body, warning her to stay out of his way.
Helen attends the closing dinner of the IDDC convention where Hendrik DeGrout presents the DeGrout Rouge publicly for the first time. As he is showing it, he trips and knocks it off its pedestal. Only the quick action of Vanden-jager, DeGrout’s second in command, who steps in just in time, saves it from hitting the ground.
Helen, Aaron and Bellert believe the plot to steal the DeGrout Rouge is still on target for the Museum of Natural History event. She agrees to serve as “bait” for de Bruin, who has warned her off. They are sure he will show up.
While mingling among the guests, she encounters a waiter who reeks of the same cigarette smoke and has the same scar on his hand as the man who attacked her. Even though he is disguised, she recognizes de Bruin and decides to pursue him. She allerts Bellert and tells him to find Aaron then persues deBruin.
He taunts her by fleeing through a service exit that leads to a back corridor of the museum. Alone in this dark passage, de Bruin accosts Helen and forces her to leave the museum with him. They enter Central Park, where he reveals he’s in possession of the real DeGrout Rouge and shows her the diamond.
Helen then realizes it was switched at dinner by Vanden-jager when it fell to the ground. He was trying to protect it. de Bruin explains he has managed to obtain it from Vanden-jager and now the precious stone is his. As he reveals this, Bellert, who secretely followed them, shows himself and demands the diamond. He shoots at deBruin to make his point. Just as deBruin is about to hand it over, Aaron, who was searching for Helen, enters the park and attempts to stop Bellert. He shoots Aaron giving him a flesh wound in his arm and in the ensuing confusion, both he and deBruin vanish into the night.
Afterwards Helen and Aaron learn that Bellert had huge gambling debts and took the opportunity to steal the diamond to change his life. Who actually has the diamond is anyone’s guess.
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