In my latest novel The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown, book 2 in the Baby Ganesh Detective Agency series, Inspector Ashwin Chopra (Retd) is on the trail of the legendary Koh-i-noor diamond, aided by his sidekick, one-year-old baby elephant Ganesha.
The Koh-i-noor, once the world’s most valuable jewel, was originally mined in India, ‘appropriated’ by the British during the Raj, and gifted to Queen Victoria, who had it installed in the British Crown Jewels. In my book the Koh-i-noor is brought to Mumbai for a special exhibition where it is promptly stolen in a daring heist from a heavily guarded room.
Fanciful? Not really.
The theft of priceless jewels has been surprisingly common throughout the ages. Indeed, if Hollywood is anything to go by, it is a fairly straightforward endeavor: a gang of misfits, a little planning, some crafty tech wizardry, an insider or two, and Bob-the-jewel-thief’s your uncle.
One only has to look at some of the best known heists down the ages: In 1983 Brinx Mat robbers made away with three tons of gold bullion, and a large volume of uncut diamonds they hadn’t even known were there; 1994, Cannes, France – $60m worth of gems were stolen from the Carlton Hotel when robbers came in spraying bullets – police later discovered there were no bullet holes anywhere: the guns were fakes. In Dec 2002, $12m dollars of diamonds vanished from the Museon in The Hague, in spite of motion sensors, CCTV, and 24hr security guards. To this day, no one has any idea how the robbery was carried out.
Of course, not all would-be jewel heisters are so successful.
In 2000 thieves burst into London’s Millennium Dome, armed to the gills, in an attempt to steal $700m worth of diamonds. Sadly for them, the authorities had been tipped off, and were on hand – dressed as cleaners – to take down the hapless miscreants.
Real-life attempts have even been made to steal the Crown Jewels, most notably by Irishman Thomas Blood back in the seventeenth century. Disguised as a parson, Blood befriended ‘Keeper of the Jewels’ Talbot Edwards at the Tower of London. On 9th May 1671, 'Parson Blood' arrived with his 'nephew'. While the 'nephew' was getting acquainted with his daughter Edwards led the way to the Jewels for a private viewing. Blood promptly knocked him cold with a mallet then, to add injury to injury, stabbed him with a sword. Blood attempted to make off with a crown, scepter and orb – all stuffed down his breeches – but the fleeing faux parson was swiftly arrested. In custody Blood stated: "I'll answer to none but the King himself". His Irish charm and King Charles’ well-known liking for audacious scoundrels earned him a royal pardon.
In my novel, the thieves are somewhat more successful, making off with the Koh-i-noor, once the world’s most famous diamond, a legendary jewel that, over the centuries, has cursed those who have attempted to possess it. With the British and Indian governments at each other’s throats over the matter, Inspector Chopra is tasked to solve a puzzling locked-room mystery, once again weaving his way through the vibrant, enigmatic backdrop of modern India.
The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown is out in paperback on March 23rd, and includes a bonus short story: Murder on Elephanta Island.
For centuries the Koh-i-Noor diamond has set man against man and king against king. Now part of the British Crown Jewels, the priceless gem is a prize that many have killed to possess. So when the Crown Jewels go on display in Mumbai, security is everyone’s principal concern. And yet, on the very day Inspector Chopra visits the exhibition, the diamond is stolen from under his nose. The heist was daring and seemingly impossible. The hunt is on for the culprits. But it soon becomes clear that only one man – and his elephant – can possibly crack this case …