Stealing Sisi’s Star

How a Master Thief Nearly Got Away with Austria’s Most Famous Jewel

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About the Book

While on honeymoon in Vienna in June of 1998, at the height of the tourist season, Gerald Daniel Blanchard, an accomplished thief, happened upon the greatest challenge of his life when he spotted the last remaining “Sisi Star” on display in Schönbrunn Palace. Named after its former owner, the Empress Elisabeth, the ten-pointed diamond and pearl star was originally one of 27 that the enigmatic Sisi wore in her extravagantly long hair. Despite the multi-layered security system protecting the priceless jewel, Blanchard decided then and there to steal it.

The star remained missing for nine years until a team of Canadian police investigators launched a joint task force to bring down a criminal organization that had robbed banks, stores and ordinary citizens on several continents. When their chief suspect offered to reveal the whereabouts of the Sisi Star, the investigators realized they were dealing with no ordinary thief. But no one involved in the case fully understood the history of the star, its ties to obsession, suicide and assassination.

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Bowers Bahney is an award-winning journalist with an MSJ from Northwestern University and a BA from Smith College. Her first book for McFarland, Stealing Sisi’s Star, was a finalist for the 2016 Ohioana Book Award in Nonfiction.

Bibliographic Details

Jennifer Bowers Bahney
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 212
Bibliographic Info: 19 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9722-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1939-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  vi
Preface  1
A Note on Currency  5
Prologue  7
I. “I am on show like a freak in a circus.”  11
II. “It’s just a natural thing.”  33
III. “I didn’t know anything about Sisi.”  41
IV. “I am a slave to my hair.”  51
V. “No one else had one but me.”  60
VI. “She worshipped her beauty like a heathen his idols.”  64
VII. “Who has stolen Sisi’s Star?”  88
VIII. “I cannot conceive how anyone can love a number of people.”  94
IX. “The diamonds and rubies … sparkle like fire.”  107
X. “It’s only priceless if you have to have it.”  114
XI. “The file started to get even more interesting.”  127
XII. “Thoughts of death encircle her incessantly now.”  140
XIII. “I gave the diamond back voluntarily.”  149
XIV. “I wished for my soul to escape to heaven through a tiny hole in my heart.”  162
XV. “You continue to take pride in your criminal past.”  168
Epilogue  179
Chapter Notes  187
Bibliography  193
Index  199

Book Reviews & Awards

  • Finalist, Ohioana Book Award—Ohio Library Association
  • “It would be criminal for lovers of historical nonfiction to miss this story of theft, sadness, and obsession…provides a fascinating peek at 19th-century thinking”—Kirkus Reviews
  • “the true story of a ten-pointed diamond and pearl star that entwines theft, obsession, suicide, and assassination”—Ohioana Library Association