Monday, January 25, 2016

Four Against the Bank of England: Mini-Review

In 1872 four Americans devised a daring plot to milk the heretofore impregnable Bank of England of £100,000. Four months previous, the brothers George and Austin Bidwell and their associate George Macdonnell landed in England without references, influence or introductions. By carefully learning the ways of business in and around the Bank, they were able to build Austin into privileged customer status through the recommendation of his tailor. MacDonnell was the master forger in the fraud syndicate and provided flawless forged bills of exchange purporting to be from the leading financial institutions of Europe. Edwin Noyes was brought in late in the game to provide a way of moving the money about from bank account to bank account. The audacious group had achieved their criminal dreams and had packed their bags in preparation to leave the country when a small error in the matter of dating the last bundle of bills was questioned. Their elaborate house of cards collapsed and the chase was on--with arrests in France and Cuba and George Bidwell leading the authorities all over the British Isles before capture. 

Ann Huxley's Four Against the Bank of England (1969) is meticulously researched and provides all the details of an almost-forgotten masterpiece of crime. She reconstructs all the details while vividly portraying the Americans and bringing them to life. This is no dry and dusty historical record, but a high-speed true crime story that has all the excitement of classic suspense thriller. It seems incredible that these four men could have pulled off such an audacious crime, but the details in the story provide the proof and logic behind the plot. If not for that small dating error, it certainly seems possible that they might have successfully managed one of the greatest frauds in British history. An interesting study of both the period and the crime. ★★ and 3/4.

1 comment:

fredamans said...

You have me quite intrigued by this book when you use phrases like, 'one of the greatest frauds of British history'. Yep, that pulled me right in.