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Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist…

Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History (edition 2010)

by Scott Andrew Selby, Greg Campbell

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198959,376 (3.85)5
Title:Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History
Authors:Scott Andrew Selby
Other authors:Greg Campbell
Info:Union Square Press (2010), Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Digital, Read

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



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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Flawless really does read like a heist movie in book form, a fact the authors acknowledge by referencing movies such as Snatch and Ocean's Eleven. (Each chapter has an epigraph, and all are well chosen and apt.) First, the authors take the reader through the heist itself: the years of preparation, the gathering of experts from the "School of Turin," the discovery of each obstacle in the Diamond Center's security system, and the formation of a plan to surmount each obstacle. This narrative is constructed based on facts, with only a small amount of necessary conjecture.
Once the authors have described the heist and its aftermath, including the thieves' escape and their trail, the narrative shifts to the Belgian police force and how they managed to crack the case. As it turns out, they had a great stroke of luck in Gust, a citizen who patrolled part of the forest for litter and came upon the thieves' trash, which contained a great many clues.
Four of the thieves, including Notarbartolo, were eventually caught and served time in Belgium or Italy, but have all been released, and little of their loot was ever recovered.

Typos/grammatical errors: repeated use of "free reign" instead of "free rein"; use of "discretely" instead of "discreetly," p. 161


Chapter four epigraph (p. 61): "What do I know about diamonds? Don't they come from Antwerp?" -Snatch (2000)

"I am [the] chairman of De Beers, a company that likes to think of itself as the world's best known and longest running monopoly. We set out, as a matter of policy to break the commandments of Mr. Sherman [the U.S. Senator for whom the Sherman Antitrust Act is named]. We make no pretense that we are not seeking to manage the diamond market, to control supply, to manage prices, and to act collusively with our partners in the business." -Nicky Oppenheimer, 1999 (70)

Chapter eight epigraph (p. 115):
Linus: Smash-and-grab job, huh?
Rusty: Slightly more complicated than that. -Ocean's Eleven (2001)

The Italian thief [Leonardo Notarbartolo] was like a determined chess player desperately moving his lonesome king from one square to the next while his opponent's [detective De Bot] rooks and knights patiently worked him into checkmate. (168)

Chapter eleven epigraph (p. 171): "Whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust, / Like diamonds, we are cut with our own dust." -Duke Ferdinand, The Duchess of Malfi (1613-1614)

Chapter thirteen epigraph (p. 210): "A diamond is the hardest substance known to man, especially if he's trying to get it back." -Proverb ( )
  JennyArch | Feb 21, 2014 |
My blog post about this book is at this link. ( )
  SuziQoregon | Mar 31, 2013 |


The subtitle for the book pretty much sums up the topic: “Inside the Largest Diamond Heist In History.” The description from Amazon does a pretty good job of giving you an overview of the details so I don’t have to:

On February 15, 2003, a group of thieves broke into an allegedly airtight 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 cafes 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 Valentines 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.


For the most part, I think the description above is pretty accurate … with the possible exception of the phrase “a thrilling in-depth study detailing the better-than-fiction heist of the century.” This particular story probably isn’t better than fiction, for, as the authors point out multiple times throughout the book, real-life isn’t as glamorous or as fast-moving as fictional heists, like the ones depicted in the Ocean’s Eleven series of films. The thieves spent almost two years planning and plotting, and the heist itself didn’t rely on high-tech devices, disguises or split-second timing. In fact, the amazing thing about this story is that it was the lax security provided by the HUMANS at the Diamond Center that enabled the thieves to pull off the crime … plus a bit of duct tape, hair spray, styrofoam and a long broom handle!

The book provides a balanced mix of the particulars of the heist (both before, during and after, including the subsequent detective work) and the history of diamonds, the diamond district in Antwerp and past diamond heists. What bogs the book down is that no one (except for the actual thieves) know all the details of the heist. Selby and Campbell do a good job of creating a plausible scenario but there are still key details that have not been nailed down … and the thieves aren’t yet willing to spill the beans. (Although Notarbartolo sold his “inside” story to Wired magazine, the authors conclude that his account was an elaborate bit of fiction designed to minimize his own involvement and disguise the actual size of the heist.)

Although the heist itself was allegedly a “perfect” crime, one small mistake (and a bit of bad luck) led to their almost instantaneous capture, which was almost disappointing to me as a reader. Part of me yearned for the neat conclusion of the Ocean’s Eleven movies … where the gang walks away scot-free and leaves everyone scratching their heads. The other thing that was weird to me was how little punishment the thieves ended up facing—based in no small part on the Belgian justice system.

Overall, the book was interesting and kept my attention, but I’d still rather watch Ocean’s Eleven.

About the Narration: Don Hagen has a deep voice that was well-suited to this particular book. He effortlessly pronounced the Italian and Belgian surnames and the rather complicated sounding Antwerp street names.

Recommended for: Readers who enjoy true crime books that aren’t violent or involve murder ( )
  Jenners26 | Jun 3, 2012 |
An interesting book about a heist I had never heard about. The authors dragged themselves down at the end spending too much time as to why the Wired magazine version could not be true. But none-the-less an easy and enlightening read ( )
1 vote JBreedlove | Aug 18, 2010 |
From my blog...

Flawless is a fast-paced, insightful look into the world's largest diamond heist in history. Through extensive research and interviews, the authors put together the story of how the Diamond District, know as the Diamond Square Mile, as heavily fortified as Fort Knox and known worldwide as one of the most secured miles in the world, could not only be robbed, but done without tripping one alarm or injuring a single person. The authors weave together the history of The Diamond District as well as the history of buying and selling diamonds. Through the authors we learn of the 27 months of surveillance by Notarbartolo and the likely members of the heist, coined by a journalist as The School of Turin, long before the Antwerp Diamond District heist. Prior to this heist, Turin, Italy was facing a series of jewelry store robberies, where no alarms were tripped, nothing was broken, and cameras remained operational. It was as though the jewelry had vanished. Where some crimes use force and bravado, The School of Turin crew used their minds.
Flawless takes the reader inside the world's largest diamond heist and exposes what is known to have occurred and what went well for the thieves and what lead to their downfall. The authors show the flaws in the otherwise impressive security measures and lead the reader on a thrilling face-paced adventure from beginning to end. While I am not one who usually enjoys true-crime novels, I was unable to put Flawless down. The history as well as the genius needed to not only pull off such a heist but also the brilliance and dedication the investigators would need to solve such a crime, made Flawless and excellent novel to read. ( )
  knittingmomof3 | Apr 23, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
"Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History" by Scott Andrew Selby and Greg Campbell, a caper movie in print, complete with European locations and a dash of journalistic scuttlebutt, offers exactly the right blend of diversion and pith. It's a ripping yarn, yes, but a meticulously reported one.
added by bongiovi | editSalon, LAURA MILLER (Feb 28, 2010)

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This real-life Oceans Elevena combination of diamond history, journalistic reportage, and riveting true-crime storyprovides a thrilling in-depth study detailing the better-than-fiction heist of the century.

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