Diving For Pearls

June 3, 2021

A young woman’s body floats in the Dubai marina. Her death alters the fates of six, each one striving for a better life in an unforgiving city.

A young Irish man comes to stay with his sister, keen to erase his troubled past in the heat of the Dubai sun. A Russian sex worker has outsmarted the system so far – but will her luck run out? A Pakistani taxi driver dreams of a future for his daughters. An Emirate man hides the truth about who he really is. An Ethiopian maid tries to carve out a path of her own. From every corner of the globe, Dubai has made promises to them all. Promises of gilded opportunities and bright new horizons, the chance to forget the past and protect long-held secrets. But Dubai breaks its promises, with deadly consequences. In a city of mirages, how do you find your way out?

‘Diving for Pearls is a wonderfully confident debut, exploring a wide range of very different characters, experiencing Dubai in very different ways. Like the best novelists, he is fascinated by a crowded mix of humanity, and he has the tools to fascinate his readers too – his characters leap off the page and his ear for dialogue is exceptional. This is a gripping first novel with announces a big new talent’ Philip Hensher, Judge of The Gordon Bowker Volcano Prize 2022 (The Society of Authors)

'A hugely engaging novel from a talented new writer.' John Boyne

'A compelling tale uncovering a world of secrets, injustice and, for the lucky few, escape.' Anne Griffin

'Shimmering, beguiling and ruthless. A fizzing and assured debut.' Colin Barrett

Buy Online
9781781620557 (Trade Paperback), £12.99
9780857527486 (Hardback), £14.99


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‘It’s tough to link so many narrative threads without clunky transitions or a loss of character depth, but O’Connell pulls it off with aplomb, breathing authenticity into each character’s world… An often dark and poignant read that will fully engage the reader from the outset.’

The Irish Times
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'We may not make it on the sun holiday this summer, but we can still treat ourselves to 'devote entire days by the pool to them' kind of books you devour on a break. Jamie O'Connell's first novel, Diving for Pearls, is just such a one – an instantly gripping page-turner set around a death in Dubai.'

The Sunday Independent
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'Jamie O’Connell holds tender control over his story and still brings the literary magic of the written word to the page. There were so many beautiful sentences; I read slowly so as not to miss anything and I was rewarded a hundred times over with the beauty of the text. I may never go to Dubai but I won’t forget the stories I read here.'

Books Ireland
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‘An enjoyable and unconventional thriller… readers will be hearing more from Jamie O’Connell, I’ve no doubt.’

The Sunday Times