Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Flawless by Scott Andrew Selby, Greg Campbell

book cover

Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History
by Scott Andrew Selby & Greg Campbell

Hardback: 336 pages
Publisher: Union Square Press
First Released: 2010

Source: Received as a free copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Publisher Wesbite (slightly modified):
On February 15, 2003, a group of thieves broke into an allegedly theft-proof vault in the international diamond capital of Antwerp, Belgium and made off with over $108 million dollars worth of diamonds and other valuables. They did so without tripping an alarm or injuring a single guard in the process.

Although the crime was perfect, the getaway was not. The police zeroed in on a band of professional thieves fronted by Leonardo Notarbartolo, a dapper Italian who had rented an office in the Diamond Center and clandestinely cased its vault for over two years.

The “who” of the crime had been answered, but the “how” remained largely a mystery. Enter Scott Andrew Selby, a Harvard Law grad and diamond expert, and Greg Campbell, author of Blood Diamonds, who undertook a global goose chase to uncover the true story behind the daring heist. Tracking the threads of the story throughout Europe—from Belgium to Italy, in seedy caf├ęs and sleek diamond offices—the authors sorted through an array of conflicting details, divergent opinions and incongruous theories to put together the puzzle of what actually happened that Valentine’s Day weekend.

This real-life Ocean’s Eleven—a combination of diamond history, journalistic reportage, and riveting true-crime story—provides a thrilling in-depth study detailing the better-than-fiction heist of the century.

Flawless is an exciting and interesting true crime book. I love the eye-catching cover--the diamonds on the cover are iridescent.

The first part of the book set up the crime: who the criminals were, what their personalities were like, and the previous crimes they'd committed. It also explained the technology the criminals had to overcome, and a bit about how diamonds are processed (from digging them from the ground to selling the finished stones in the Diamond District) and how they've been stolen during these stages in the past.

Everything came together very nicely in the second part as the authors described the actual theft and investigation. Because of the initial information, it was clear what a breathtakingly bold crime was committed. Even knowing the general outcome, my heart was pounding due to the suspense in these scenes. Very well written. They also described the difficulty of trying the criminals, who had gone over the border to another country, and the fallout for everyone (the thieves, those who lost items, the building security, etc.).

The book contained a general map of the layout of the Diamond District and of the Diamond Center so that the descriptions were easy to follow. Overall, I'd highly recommend this well-written book to those interested in true crime and detective stories--especially to readers with an interest in diamonds.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Prologue
The white-tiled floor of the vault was littered with diamonds, pearls, emeralds, rubies, gold, and silver. Empty velvet-lined jewelry cases, cardboard cigar boxes, and tin-clasped metal containers lay amid sparkling gemstones of every imaginable cut, color, clarity, and carat. There were ancient heirlooms, gilded bond notes, a Rolex watch, and a brick of solid gold heavy enough to stub toes. Loose stones rolled and bounced like marbles as the detectives picked through the debris, their low gasps and whistles of amazement echoing softly in the bright underground chamber. Detective Patrick Peys thought that if he were to shovel it all up, pour it into any one of the empty and discarded containers scattered about, he would have enough wealth to finance a decadent retirement not only for himself but also for the five other detectives in his unit of specialized diamond-crime investigators.

Like everyone else who descended to the bottom floor of the Antwerp Diamond Center that day--Monday, February 17, 2003--Peys needed some time to process the enormity of what he saw. He was no stranger to audacious crimes committed--or at least attempted--in Antwerp's high-security Diamond District, but he'd never seen anything like this.

By almost any measure, the safe room two floors underground was as impenetrable a fortress as any to be found in the tightly protected Diamond District....

....Peys looked down at the piles of wealth and debris scattered across the floor. What was rolling under his feet--those gems and jewels, those scattered and discarded riches, the individual treasures of the building's tenants who had stored them in the vault under the reasonable assumption that they would be safer here than in any bank--were the items the thieves had left behind. They had robbed and ransacked more than they could carry.

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