"Grizzard had any number of methods from which to choose for the heist. With his decades of experience, he had worked both as a burglar and receiver. Broker and dealer. Jeweler and thief. He and his gang members had stolen jewels in elaborate ploys, raided hotel safes, snatched cases from traveling jewelers, tunneled into homes and banks, cracked safes, copied keys, robbed hansom cabs and train cars, and posed as everyone from domestic servants to wealthy buyers to policemen." -- p.56
Alfred Ward was Scotland Yard's Chief inspector in July 1913. He was a consummate professional who had cracked any number of London's most sensational crimes. On July 15 one of London's most respected jewelers Max Mayer reported the theft of a pearl necklace valued at 135,000 pounds which would be the equivalent of $18 million in 2013. The necklace had been mailed from Paris to London by one of Mayer's associates in the French capitol. It was considered to be the most valuable necklace in the world and to add some perspective was worth twice as much as the legendary Hope Diamond. When the carefully wrapped package arrived at Mayer's office it contained only sugar cubes. The story would become an international sensation. Alfred Ward knew that only a handful of individuals could possibly have pulled off such a daring theft. At the top of his list was the man considered to be the greatest criminal mastermind of his time Joseph Grizzard. Let the cat-and-mouse game begin! Author Molly Caldwell Crosby has chronicled this intriguing case in her compelling new book "The Great Pearl Heist: London's Greatest Thief and Scotland Yard's Hunt for the World's Most Valuable Necklace". It is a tale replete with all sorts and shady, elusive and determined characters. It reads more like a novel than an actual case and that is what is so compelling about it. If you are anything like me you will simply not be able to put this one down.
Clearly the main character in "The Great Pearl Heist" is Joseph Grizzard. As Molly Caldwell Crosby tells it Grizzard grew up in poverty in the East End of London and became a thief at the tender age of 13. One London prosecutor characterized Grizzard in this way: "Like so many criminals he was a great man with a twist in his character which made him prefer to go crooked where he might go straight". A very apt description! Grizzard never resorted to violence. He was a generous man and fiercely loyal to his friends and associates. He was a stickler for detail and largely remained in the shadows. He ran his organization known as the "Grizzard Gang" much like a corporation. He employed men and women from various ethnic backgrounds and social classes and was always on the lookout for individuals with specific skill sets. In "The Great Pearl Heist" you will meet many of the most prominent figures in Grizzard's employ and discover the varying roles that each played in this daring caper.
Joining Alfred Ward in the effort to uncover the perpetrator(s) of this fantastic crime were one Frank Beaumont Price from Lloyd's of London who had insured the necklace for the full amount and the lead prosecutor in the case Sir Richard Muir. These gentlemen proved to be up to the task at hand as they continually matched wits with their chief suspect Joseph Grizzard and his associates. Molly Caldwell Crosby does a workmanlike job detailing the various tactics used by law enforcement as they slowly and methodically closed in on Mr. Grizzard.
Although the year is very young I can state with a fair amount of confidence that when all is said and done "The Great Pearl Heist: London's Greatest Thief and Scotland Yard's Hunt for the World's Most Valuable Necklace" will be one of the best books I will read in 2013. As someone who generally reads books about much weightier subjects "The Great Pearl Heist" turned out to be the perfect change of pace. I was a bit taken aback by a couple of reviewers who disliked the author's writing style. I guess that's why they make chocolate and vanilla. As far as I am concerned Molly Caldwell Crosby proves to be a wordsmith extraordinaire and I really appreciated her writing prowess. This would be an excellent choice for a wide variety of audiences. Very highly recommended!
I down rated Crosby's debut popular history of the American Yellow Refer epidemic of the 19th century a couple years ago because she didn't trust her resources to tell the story, trying instead to write excitement into it with somewhat questionable use of the sources and overuse of overly-dramatic prose. When I saw this most recent, her third, I decided to see what progress she has made by now. The good news is Crosby has learned to trust her sources, the bad news is she … more
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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