From the Publisher
“The Great Pearl Heist not only tells the thrilling story of a seemingly impossible theft, it immerses readers in the pre-war world of 1913 London and the extraordinary life of one of history’s most skilled and clever thieves.”—Candice Millard, author of The River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic
“Fast-paced, full of twists and turns, and rich in detail…Crosby tells a fascinating story rooted in such deep historical research that we can practically watch the drama unfold in real time.”—Jeffrey H. Jackson, author of Paris Under Water
“Culled from archival research of newspaper accounts, Scotland Yard case files, and memoirs of noted thieves, Crosby turns back the clock to a winning true crime tale involving two superior minds—a very capable detective and a wily gentleman criminal—in a jewel heist at the dawn of twentieth-century England...The author highlights the case’s major influence on British crime detection and the legal system, adding a dash of color and realism.”—Publishers Weekly
“Crosby incorporates pearl legends and facts, as well as a great deal of history surrounding the hardships of pearl diving and the intricacies of pearl trading before World War I...Crosby’s thriller-style account is backed up by her intensive research.”—Booklist
Molly Caldwell Crosby has a lovely talent for imagining history.
Dallas Morning News (Sunday, November 2, 2012)
Michael Ray Taylor
Crosby brings a clinical eye to her subject, creating a narrative that manages to remain both exciting and informative.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal (Sunday, November 2, 2012)
A ripping yarn...Crosby has stepped into the breach, assembling her narrative from an impressive array of sources and then lavishly saucing it with period detail.
Salon.com (Sunday, November 2, 2012, 5:00 pm)
Crosby's thriller-style account is backed up by her intensive research of Metropolitan Police records in the National Archives in London, along with contemporary accounts...she has crafted another compelling popular history. (Starred review)
Crosby (The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic That Shaped Our History) here recounts the brazen 1913 theft of a valuable pearl necklace by Joseph Grizzard, the "King of Fences." Reading less like the well-researched historical work it is and more like a fast-paced crime thriller, the story of the famed Mayer pearls (worth roughly $18 million in today's dollars), the hunt for the thieves by Scotland Yard's Inspector Alfred Ward and Frank Price of Lloyd's of London, and the subsequent trial and conviction of the elusive gang leader Grizzard and four of his accomplices by prosecutor Sir Richard Muir is set in brightly described local and historical detail. Crosby uses scores of contemporary and modern sources, police files, newspapers, and archival documents to set the scene. At times, it is difficult to distinguish the line between fact and supposition. As Crosby herself notes, there are no personal accounts of the heist itself, and she is attempting to re-create it. VERDICT The book is a gem of information about London's jewelry district, Hatton Garden, as well as the jewelry trade, England's criminal underground, and Scotland Yard's early detective force as well as a great story. Recommended for general readers, historical true-crime buffs, and readers of detective mysteries, especially of the British kind.—Amelia Osterud, Carroll Univ. Lib., Waukesha, WI
A World War I–era true-crime tale about the theft of the world's most valuable necklace. Heist stories have an enduring fascination for the public, and Crosby (Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic that Remains One of Medicine's Greatest Mysteries, 2010, etc.) offers an exhaustively detailed reconstruction of one all but forgotten by history. The setting is the underworld of London's Hatton Garden jewelry district in the days before the war, and the object of desire is a pink pearl necklace worth around $750,000--by one estimate, nearly $20 million in today's currency. Criminal mastermind Joseph Grizzard, the "King of Fences," had his eye on the necklace, and he concocted a plan to intercept it as it traveled by mail between two dealers. Despite the colorful setting and cast of characters, the narrative is slowed by the author's efforts to explain every detail of life in London, giving it the feel of a history textbook at times. In the aftermath of the clever--though not particularly exciting--theft, the story picks up a bit of steam as the thieves attempt to cash in, with Scotland Yard and its ace detective, Inspector Alfred Ward, hot on the trail. Crosby leaves no aspect of the case unexamined, and the book will be extremely valuable as a reference material on 1913 London. But none of the characters truly come to life, and the necklace, beautiful and valuable though it may be, doesn't have the romance and mystery of the Hope Diamond or Star of India. Lacks the excitement of a truly thrilling heist caper, but offers an illuminating glimpse into England's criminal past.
What People are saying about this
From the Publisher
"A ripping yarn...a real-life, old-time Holmesian entertainment."Salon
"A gem...In her well-researched account, Crosby recounts the theft, the gang of thieves behind it and Scotland Yard's hunt for the culprints. Her story is rich in the lore of London's famed underworld."Newsday
"A winning true crime tale involving two superior mindsa very capable detective and a wily gentleman criminalin a jewel heist at the dawn of twentieth-century England...highlights the cases's major influence on British crime detection and the legal system."Publishers Weekly
"Crosby's thriller-style account is backed up by her intensive research...Another compelling popular history."Booklist
"A narrative that manages to remain both exciting and informative...plenty of nefarious action."The Memphis Commercial Appeal
"Rich and evocative...Crosby has written a book that is as enchanting and irresistible as its subject."Candice Millard
"Fast paced, full of twists and turns, and rich in detail...Crosby tells us a fascinating story rooted in such deep historical research that we can practically watch the drama unfold in real time."Jeffrey H. Jackson, author of Paris Under Water
Acclaim for the works of Molly Caldwell Crosby
"Engrossing."The New York Times Book Review
"Riveting storytelling."Publishers Weekly