The Thieves of Threadneedle Street: The Incredible True Story of the American Forgers Who Nearly Broke the Bank of England

Nicholas Booth. Pegasus, $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-68177-240-0
Booth (Zigzag: The Incredible Wartime Exploits of Double Agent Eddie Chapman) does justice to the incredible true story of a group of audacious swindlers who took advantage of gaping holes in 19th-century British banking but were tripped up by a silly mistake. With a novelist’s flair, Booth opens with that criminal error: in March 1873, the discovery of an omission of a date on an already-paid bill of exchange led Frank May, the deputy chief cashier of the Bank of England, to realize that it was counterfeit. May quickly reviewed other bills of exchange and realized that the crooks might have already converted £1 million worth. He embarked on a desperate race to prevent any more forged bills being honored, and to identify the thieves. With such high stakes established, Booth then flashes back to 1864, introducing Austin Bidwell, a colorful character who was one of the brains behind the scam. Booth also takes a parallel look at the evolution of international finance, noting that the creation of bills of exchange had been viewed as a great innovation. This account, the first to make use of the Bank of England’s archives, is likely to be the definitive narrative of this spectacular (if now obscure) crime. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/05/2016
Release date: 11/08/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-68177-284-4
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