Journalist Adam Shand is the author of two previous true crime titles, Big Shots and The Skull, both trolling turf made pop-culture by the Underbelly series of books and TV.

With King of Thieves: The Adventures of Arthur Delaney and the Kangaroo Gang (A&U, $32.99), Shand takes a busman’s holiday from the psychosis and claustrophobia of Melbourne and Sydney’s gangland wars to follow one Arthur ‘the Duke’ Delaney down the rabbit hole into the fabulous lost world of organised Aussie-shoplifting in Swinging London.

Throughout the 1960s, the Kangaroo Gangs fleeced all the major department stores of millions of pounds of jewellery, fine clothes, linen, white goods and even a chimp from Harrod’s zoo — and they did it with ‘dash’.

This ain’t literary journalism but it’s a hell of a read, with hints that if it wasn’t so populist one might have considered these Aussies as yet another incarnation in London’s fascination with, and long history of, organised criminal underworlds from Falstaff and Prince Hal, to Defoe’s Moll Flanders, Dickens’ Oliver Twist, Hogarth’s prints and Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera.

King of Thieves deserves to join Stephanie Alexander, Mick Gatto, Burroughs and Bukowski as one of your store’s most stolen.

*This review is courtesy of Bookseller+Publisher magazine’s Fancy Goods blog.

Peter Fray

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