Book review: 'The Great Pearl Heist' filled with gems and mystery

By Mike Whitmer

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Dec. 29 2012 12:00 p.m. MST

"THE GREAT PEARL HEIST: London's Greatest Thief and Scotland Yard's Hunt for the World's Most Valuable Necklace," by Molly Caldwell Crosby, Berkley Hardcover, $25.95, 304 pages (nf)

The best mystery books require two major elements to be successful: a wily and difficult-to-catch criminal and a dedicated, persistent law enforcer. In her new nonfiction book, “The Great Pearl Heist," author Molly Caldwell Crosby tells the story of a mystery of epic proportions with characters that would rival even a Sherlock Holmes adventure.

Back in 1913, Joseph Grizzard was known as "the King of Fences” in London’s East End. He and his confederate thieves are well known to the police. Through unwavering loyalty and careful planning, however, Grizzard has always escaped conviction for any criminal activity. So, not surprisingly, when an announcement is made by a jeweler of the purchase of a magnificent string of pearls — worth millions by today’s standards — Grizzard and his associates set out on a path to relieve the owner of the costly gems.

The foil to Grizzard’s criminal activities is Inspector Alfred Ward, the lead detective for Scotland Yard’s newest investigative division. His forensic methods were new and groundbreaking for the day and had resulted in the capture of many infamous criminals. Ward and his men were confident that Grizzard’s group would be interested in the gems and so they prepared themselves for the expected theft.

What follows is a riveting account of a brazen daylight crime and the efforts made by Scotland Yard to retrieve the priceless pearls. Using legitimate jewelers, known liars, undercover policemen and hoping for a little luck, Ward and his officers try to ferret out the guilty parties and bring them to justice. All the while, the thieves are desperately trying to sell their beautiful prize, enrich themselves and avoid capture by the authorities.

Despite the time that has passed since this crime, Crosby deftly offers the reader a detailed look into one of the most notorious yet least remembered crimes of the 20th century. The exploits of Grizzard and Ward are at the forefront, but other players in this mystery help make it an entertaining and enjoyable experience. Well documented and well written, this book will be a great addition to any library.

“The Great Pearl Heist” is free of vulgar language, described violence or sexual descriptions.

Mike Whitmer lives in West Valley City and listens to the Piano Guys for pleasure. His email is grundelwalken@gmail.com or he blogs at mtwhitmer.blogspot.com.

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