Thursday, April 25, 2013

Molly Caldwell Crosby: The Great Pearl Heist

The Great Pearl Heist

Title:  The Great Pearl Heist

Author:  Molly Caldwell Crosby

Publisher:  Penguin Group

Pages:  304

Genre:  True Crime

Setting:  Edwardian London

Where did you get it:  Barnes and Noble - print book

Why did you read it:  I don't read a lot of true crime. In fact, I believe this is only the third book in that genre that I can claim to have read. However, I really enjoyed the first two and I liked the setting of this story, so I figured, why not.

From the publisher: 

Molly Caldwell Crosby once again brings forgotten history to vivid life in an absorbing account of crime and deduction in the early days of the twentieth century. . . .

In the summer of 1913, under the cover of London’s perpetual smoggy dusk, two brilliant minds are pitted against each other—a celebrated gentleman thief and a talented Scotland Yard detective—in the greatest jewel heist of the new century. An exquisite strand of pale pink pearls, worth more than the Hope Diamond, has been bought by a Hatton Garden broker. Word of the “Mona Lisa of Pearls” spreads around the world, captivating jewelers as well as thieves. In transit to London from Paris, the necklace vanishes without a trace.

Joseph Grizzard, “the King of Fences,” is the charming leader of a vast gang of thieves in London’s East End. Grizzard grew up on the streets of Whitechapel during the terror of Jack the Ripper to rise to the top of the criminal world. Wealthy, married, a father, Grizzard still cannot resist the sport of crime, and the pearl necklace proves an irresistible challenge.

Inspector Alfred Ward patrols the city’s dark, befogged streets before joining the brand-new division of the Metropolitan Police known as “detectives.” Ward earns his stripes catching some of the great murderers of Victorian London and, at the height of his career, is asked to turn his forensic talents to finding the missing pearls and the thief who stole them.

In the spirit of The Great Train Robbery and the tales of Sherlock Holmes, this is the true story of a psychological cat-and-mouse game set against the backdrop of London’s golden Edwardian era. Thoroughly researched, compellingly colorful, The Great Pearl Heist is a gripping narrative account of this little-known, yet extraordinary crime.

What did you think?  I thought this was a fabulous story. I find the Edwardian time period to be fascinating. Everything and everyone existed on the cusp. Add in the most expensive necklace ever made, Scotland Yard, and gentlemen thieves, and you have a really entertaining tale. 

I really enjoyed Crosby's writing style as well. She told the story in a novel-ish kind of way rather than presenting the information in a historical, fact and statistic-laden fashion. She was also very good at giving background information and painting character sketches of each man involved. To this point, however, there were times that I thought she veered off in another vein to the point where I got distracted. 

Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating story and I'm happy that it caught my eye on the shelf at the bookstore. It makes me want to read more true crime and definitely more of Molly Caldwell Crosby's work. This story should be made into a movie if it hasn't already.

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