Flawless by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell tells the true-life story of the robbery of the underground vault of the Antwerp Diamond Center. This is true crime at its best: from the personalities involved to the months of planning, to the investigation, and to the aftermath of the heist.
On February 15, 2003, the School of Turin (as the gang of thieves is called) entered and robbed one of the most impenetrable vaults on earth. The millions of dollars worth of diamonds, gold, gems, and currency has never been recovered.
Flawless reads like a fast-paced novel or movie script, moving seamlessly among the criminals' work setting up the robbery, the history of the diamond district, the nature of the diamond business, and the personalities of the people investigating the crime. The story of the diamond heist covers more than two years of hard work on the part of the thieves, who operated out of at least two countries. We learn how Leonardo Notarbartolo infiltrated the Diamond Center and managed to relate even the most minute details of the security system to his co-conspirators. From these data, the School of Turin was able to devise the tools and methods for circumventing numerous security blocks and pulling off the robbery without resorting to violence.
Throughout the story, we are struck with the amazing mix of skill and luck on the part of both the thieves and the investigators and the subtle and obvious gaps in the Diamond District's anti-theft measures. At times we are left shaking our heads as we learn of the center's policies: What were they thinking?
On a more personal note, one of my favorite parts of the book is the description of the diamond business. Yes, indeed, millions of dollars worth of sales are done on the basis of a handshake and reputation alone. My grandfather was a jeweler who dealt in diamonds and other stones and often told stories of this: no contracts, no lawyers, just a handshake and a promise, often between strangers. The contrast of that trust among the diamond dealers with the high security, alarms, and thick vaults of the individual jeweler's place of business has intrigued me since I was quite young.
Flawless tells an exciting story that shines light not only on a specific crime and group of criminals but also on the many faceted world of diamonds.
Be sure to see Scott Selby's fabulous guest post for Beth Fish Reads, which includes the book trailer (posted yesterday).
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Published by Union Square Press, 2010
Challenges: New Author, 100+
Source: Review (see review policy)