Sunday, January 8, 2012
The Mystery Of The Five Hundred Diamonds - Robert Barr
Name: The Mystery Of The Five Hundred Diamonds
Author: Robert Barr
Source: The Triumphs Of Eugene Valmont (Queen’s Quorum title #35). This book (along with other works) is available on Gutenberg at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/19369
Story Number: 8
Robert Barr wrote only 8 stories featuring Valmont, all collected in ‘The Triumphs of Eugene Valmont’. Some critics consider Valmont to be the forerunner of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. Out of these eight, ‘The Absent-Minded Coterie’ has been rated by critics as one of the great detective stories of the early days. However, I chose the story in which Valmont debuts, though it’s not exactly a triumph for Valmont.
The French government has come into the possession of a very rich necklace, a necklace consisting of around 500 diamonds in various sizes and shapes. Because of its history of having exerted a malign influence over everyone who had the misfortune to be connected with it, the French decide to sell it to the highest bidder. The duty of protecting the necklace from falling into the wrong hands and also to protect the individual who will buy that necklace is bestowed upon Valmont, the chief detective to the French Government. On the day of the sale, the city of Paris is not only playing host to some of the wealthiest gentlemen from Britain & America but also to the cleverest thieves from the two continents.
The elaborate groundwork laid done by Valmont and his team to identify the most likely buyer and the most likely person to attempt the theft turn out be inadequate as we learn from the turn of events. An American easily outbids the others by quoting an exorbitant amount and immediately hands over a cheque and requests to take possession of the necklace. The French police have no idea who this gentleman is, they have no clue as to how exactly the man is trying to swindle as the cheque is cleared and the money is transferred over. The American has an accomplice in the audience who holds up everyone in that room at gunpoint so that the American can get a head start of five minutes, at the end of which, he himself vanishes.
What follows is an elaborate hunt to catch the mastermind of this daring scheme in which the mastermind is always one step ahead of the entire police force. It is not until this man reaches the American shores and sends across a detailed letter addressed to the French police do they understand how exactly this whole plan was carried out.