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Home > Reviews > Sexy Beasts

Sexy Beasts

Author Wensley Clarkson

ISBN No 9781784298982

Review date 19/06/2019

No of pages 352

Publisher Quercus

Publisher URL

Year of publication 07/06/2017


Our Review


£ 14.99

Sexy Beasts: The Inside Story of the Hatton Garden Heist by Wensley Clarkson.

Despite the title, this book offers more; a story of crime and law enforcement in living memory, writes Mark Rowe.

A good third of the book is given over to ‘the history’; of the London underworld, including the man behind the robbery, Brian Reader, and what Clarkson calls ‘a series of cat and mouse games between Reader and Flying Squad detective that would go on for decades’. As Clarkson shows, the criminals are only one side of the story; the other is the police. While some readers might feel that the history is getting in the way of the actual ‘inside story’, Clarkson does point out how the roots of the 2015 theft date as far back at the 1960s. and in September 1971 for instance, London criminals stole millions from a Lloyds Bank in Baker Street, a case with similarities with Hatton Garden; the work over a bank holiday weekend, the faulty security and police response; the rounding up of most of the robbers.

Besides giving background in the sense of time, Clarkson also shows the geographical spread of criminals; London and the south east he describes early on in an almost off-hand manner as ‘the Wild West of Europe; a frontier zone full of deadly mavericks from all four corners of the globe; one of the fastest-growing countries in the world, where black money still rules’. While foreigners have come to London to do crime, the native London crooks have gone to northern Turkey; Spain and Thailand. Clarkson also sets out how this underworld is one for gossip, and has a relationship with showbusiness and film; towards the end, he likens the not-caught criminal ‘Basil’ to Keyser Soze of the movie The Usual Suspects. Clarkson closes by suggesting that ‘a so-called Curse of Hatton Garden will emerge’ as the crime casts a shadow – people are hurt and die because of what they know or are suspected of knowing about the takings.

Clarkson describes the Hatton Garden gang as veterans, even ‘old codgers’, now ‘legendary characters’. While this may all run the risk of romanticising the criminals, Clarkson makes plain the drastic and ruthless violence. Times have changed. Instead of pitting themselves against cash in transit guards with truncheons, ‘security systems are far more sophisticated today’, and the thieves were undone by tech, such as tracings on their mobile phones and laptop contents. Quoting the social scientist Dick Hobbs, Clarkson compares the gang to ‘a business syndicate’’: “They saw themselves as the old executive of crime trying to make one more big bonus before retiring for good.” Clarkson makes the case for the ‘Hatton Garden Job’ as a ‘quintessentially English crime’ and a ‘throwback to the days when gangs of ‘blaggers’ ruled the streets of London’. While robbery appears not worth the effort, as it’s so detectable – doing the actual crime is only half the work, staying clear of justice is the harder part - Clarkson shows the ‘criminal netherworld’ is a way of life, a mentality that dates from the dislocation of the 1939-45 war.

Clarkson has written numerous books on crime, or rather criminals – for his work is always people-led, and their stories – such as about the ‘hit man’ Jimmy Moody.