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 still overdoes the dramatics. An overused cliché applied to nonfiction crime stories is that they read like a mystery novel. In Crosby's case, this book reads like a turgid overblown mystery novel of the much lampooned "It was a dark and stormy night." variety.
On the plus side, Crosby has a good story to tell. In the months leading up to the beginning of the first World War and the end of the golden age of empire, a string of pearls twice the value of the Hope Diamond was stolen whole en route between jewelers in Paris and London. A local London crime leader was suspected, and one of Scotland Yard's most respected detectives was assigned to the case. The crime, the chase, and the court case all had elements of excitement that keep the reader's attention in Crosby s account. Especially as Crosby describes the arrests and trial, she hews closer to the matter of fact style of the court documents which enhances the dramatic impact of the account.
But then she dips back into her thesaurus and breaks into the purple prose and my attention wonders and my eyes roll. No noun so descriptive no verb so active that it can't be modified to absurdity. "Downy"" cigar ashes, bleak streets "mosaicked" with rain, fog that grew "jaundiced" with smoke are examples I find as I flip through the book while I write my review. You too can play along as you read.
So Crosby has matured as a writer and I enjoyed the story when she didn't bury it in adjectives. Just take away her thesaurus and I predict even better for her future.
"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 … more
I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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