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Ruffians, Pickpockets, and Jewel Fences

What was crime-fighting actually like in Sherlock Holmes-era London?

With the second season of Sherlock debuting this Sunday on PBS, here's an old-fashioned Edwardian mystery to warm up with: You are a police detective sent to the lair of "Kemmy" Grizzard, a notorious London jewel fence. He is known to have a stolen diamond necklace for sale on the premises. Inside, you find Kemmy and three likely buyers calmly sitting down in the dining room to a soup course.  There is nothing incriminating in their pockets, and upon informing Kemmy that you will search the home from top to bottom, his response is ingratiatingly polite: Gentlemen, search wherever you like.
The house is turned upside down for four hours; nothing is found, and you leave in defeat. So where did the necklace go? The solution is almost as simple as Poe's purloined letter:

The Chief-Inspector and his men went away. Without saying a word to the other men, Kemmy went on with his dinner, he drank the now-cold soup, and then from the bottom of the plate, took out the diamond necklace. It was washed, and auctioned."
It's a lapse worthy of Sherlock Holmes' hapless Scotland Yard foil, the dogged but unimaginative Inspector Lestrade. But unlike Holmes or Lestrade, Kemmy Grizzard was real—and his home at 73 Parkholme Road  still stands today. The story comes from George Cornish's memoir Cornish of Scotland Yard (1935), which is part of a genre of long-forgotten Yard tell-alls that flourished as a group of old-timers retired in the 1930s. They offer a fascinating, almost wistful glimpse into a gaslit era of crime—the real-life London most of us only know from the fictional tales of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

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