The Unusual Suspect: The Rise and Fall of a Modern-Day Outlaw - book cover
  • Publisher : Ballantine Books
  • Published : 04 Jan 2022
  • Pages : 288
  • ISBN-10 : 0593129237
  • ISBN-13 : 9780593129234
  • Language : English

The Unusual Suspect: The Rise and Fall of a Modern-Day Outlaw

The remarkable true story of a modern-day Robin Hood: a British college student who started robbing banks as the financial crisis unfolded.

"Completely fascinating . . . [The Unusual Suspect] reads like a deep psychological thriller, but it's real. Is truth stranger than fiction? You bet."-Lee Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Stephen Jackley was a young British college student when the global financial crisis began in 2007. Overwhelmed by the growing indifference toward economic equality, he became obsessed with the idea of taking on the role of Robin Hood. With no prior experience, he resolved to become a bank robber. He would steal from the rich and give to the poor. Against all likelihood, his plan actually worked.

Jackley used disguises, elaborate escape routes, and fake guns to successfully hold up a string of banks, making away with thousands of pounds. He attempted ten robberies in southwest England over a six-month period. Banknotes marked with "RH"-"Robin Hood"-began finding their way into the hands of the homeless. Motivated by a belief that global capitalism was ruining lives and driving the planet toward ecological disaster, he dreamed of changing the world for the better through his crimes. The police, despite their concerted efforts, had no idea what was going on or who was responsible. That is, until Jackley's ambition got the better of him.

This is his story.
Acclaimed journalist Ben Machell had full and direct access to Stephen Jackley, who in turn shared his complete set of diaries, selections of which are included throughout the narrative. The result lends an intense intimacy and urgency to Jackley's daring and disturbing tale, shedding light on his mental state and the challenges he faced in his own mind and beyond. It wasn't until Jackley was held in custody that he underwent a psychiatric evaluation, resulting in a diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome.
Behind the simple act of bank robbery lies a complex and emotionally wrought story of an individual whose struggles led him to create a world in which he would succeed against all odds. Until he didn't.

Editorial Reviews

"Stephen Jackley, the ‘Robin Hood' bank robber, is a student with an incredible, increasingly dark story, which Ben Machell tells with Hollywood box-office wit, compassion, and brio. With every page, you find yourself screaming, 'OH MY GOD-WHAT ARE YOU DOING, STEPHEN?' all the way to him ending up in a U.S. prison. . . . How one young man's misguided plan to save the world went dangerously wrong."-Caitlin Moran, New York Times bestselling author of How to Be a Woman

"Meet Stephen: university student, bank robber, modern-day Robin Hood, human being. He was good at only one of them; thankfully, it was the only one that mattered. . . . A truly remarkable story."-Terry Hayes, New York Times bestselling author of I Am Pilgrim

"Was Stephen Jackley a cynical attention seeker, or an idealist fighting a broken system, or something else entirely? Whatever the truth, his story-superbly written and expertly reported-reveals the troubling place of finance at the center of all of our lives."-Oliver Bullough, author of Moneyland

"A well-written page-turner . . . a fast-paced true-crime tale."-Kirkus Reviews

Readers Top Reviews

Kindle nexusDangerm
If you want a very well written account of how a person with the best of intentions combined with a mental problem and set against the current troubles brought about by rampant capitalistic greed ends up paying, then read this.
Denis Reed
This is a very unusual book.It is about a real life criminal,his life,his crimes and his punishment.But,unlike most other books of this type ,the boy at the centre is far from being the 'usual' type of fellon in any way.And the rush to judgment that this sort of account usually provokes is problematic too.He,and it,may be a 'one off'.Perhaps. Totally enthralling either way.
Gina A Hernandez
The Unusual Suspect tells the story of Stephen Jackley, a British man who committed a series of armed robberies in an effort to become a modern day Robin Hood. The Unusual Suspect details Jackley's family and childhood, including Jackley's struggles with his parents, his difficulty making and maintaining personal relationships and his series of crimes that end with him serving time in American prisons. The Unusual Suspect was a well-written account of Jackley's life and crimes. I appreciated the depth of detail that was included, it was clear that Ben Machell did his research and included every relevant source in this account. The only reason that this was not a five star read for me is that I felt that the author included quite a lot of Jackley's original writings, which I was not interested in at all. For me as reader of non-fiction I want to hear the story retold objectively. This retelling had the distinct feeling of defending Jackley, even if not outright. Still, a good read for fans of non-fiction.
3 no 7
“The Unusual Suspect “is the true-crime saga of Stephen Jackley. His life and wrongdoings are definitely strange, sad, and yet somehow exhilarating. Stephen Jackley is about as far from a typical bank robber as one could get. He decided that the world was not fair and that he could make a difference by robbing banks, a modern Robin Hood. He even left behind mementoes, coins with a scratch mark or banknotes marked with “RH.” He thought robbing banks would work, so that was what he did. Jackley might have been naïve, but he was not stupid; he was confident and resourceful. Machell takes readers into Jackley’s world via his personal journals; Jackley wrote down everything, his adolescence, his crimes, his time in jail. He documented his thoughts, his accomplishments, and his plans. This provides readers with an interesting insight into his thinking, his world, and his motivation. Jackley evolves as a complicated figure with undiagnosed Asperger syndrome. However, he was not “let down” by the system; it is not society’s fault that he committed crimes. He just decided, on his own, to rob banks. I do not read many “true crime” accounts. Non-fiction authors are not supposed to “make stuff up” to create suspense and drama; therefore, many tend to be predictable and sometimes tedious. That is certainly not the case with “The Unusual Suspect.” I found the book interesting, thought provoking, and even compelling, as I read of Jackley’s escapades, his duty to rob banks for some greater good, and his ability to get away with it for so long. I received a review copy of “The Unusual Suspect” from Ben Machell, Random House Publishing, and Ballantine Books. It should definitely be on the “read next” list for all readers, fans of true crime or not. #TrueCrime #ModernRobinHood
Thomas Kelley
Imagine someone who has no criminal history deciding after a trip to Thailand and Cambodia and seeing what it really means to be poor. Stephen Jackley decides he will start an NGO to fund hospitals, schools and scholarships for the global poor. He plans on starting this with seed money from robbing banks. Stephen Jackley is an early 20's English gentleman who comes from a difficult household his mother was suffering from schizophrenia and was in and out of institutions and a father who suffered from depression. Stephen will find out later in life that he probably suffers from Asperger Syndrome. Is family does not socialize with people and Stephen has very few friends and he does deal well with people in general. He loses hope in society and figures mankind and capitalism are going to leads to mans ruin and destroying the environment . Stephen himself came from a poor family but until his trips to Thailand and Cambodia did not understand what poor really was. This also coincided and reinforced his thoughts in 2007 and 2008 when the housing bubble burst and financial systems around the world where starting to collapse all because of the subprime lending. Stephen justifies his action by figuring that if the banks were taking money from people that he could be a modern day Robin Hood and steal money from the banks. But to understand what kind of bank robber he was consider that he got nervous talking to people so he had to wrap a piece of paper around his gun to remind himself of phrases to tell people during the robberies. This is an interesting read. Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Publishing for an ARC for a fair and honest review.

Short Excerpt Teaser

Chapter One

It was a cold December morning, the sky was gray and heavy, and a young man stood at the edge of a high cliff. He looked out to sea as the wind whipped against him, stinging his eyes and making his blond hair stream and dance. Directly in front of him, just a single stride away, was a five-­hundred-­foot drop onto a shingle beach where rolling green waves frothed, crackled, and vanished. He looked up and down the narrow track running along the top of the white chalk cliff. It was deserted. He could have been the only living soul for miles around. He shut his eyes and took a deep breath. Gulls cawed beneath him. The sharp smell of the sea filled his nostrils. He thought of everything that had led to this moment: the decisions, the beliefs, the fears, the regrets. He thought about what he was about to do, and it left him euphoric with terror, light-­headed and weightless. A small, insistent voice inside him said that he did not have to go through with it. That it was not too late to change his mind. He squeezed his fingernails into the palms of his hands and pushed the thought away. He had to see this through. He did not have a choice. He took a few more deep breaths to steady himself. And then he opened his eyes, turned away from the precipice, and started to walk along the high coastal path.

He moved quickly, picking his steps without hesitation, despite the danger. He had known these cliffs since childhood. They formed part of Devon's Jurassic Coast, mile after mile of rugged, almost unbroken rock face, 185 million years old. He was heading west, which meant that, directly to his right, the English Channel stretched toward the horizon. To his left were gorse thickets and coarse meadows that, come springtime, he knew would be dotted with wildflowers: sea lavender and samphire, bluebells and garlic. Beyond were trees-­ash, sweet chestnut, rowan, sycamore-­which, in turn, gave way to the rich, rolling green farmland of South Devon. Beneath his feet was the rock of the cliffs themselves. Formed of strata upon strata of ancient rock, these cliffs drew geologists and paleontologists from around the globe, home, as they were, to an incalculable amount of ancient life, frozen in time. Fossils of ammonites, trilobites, ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, pliosaurs. Again, he knew all this. He knew their names and shapes as intimately as he did the sight of the hovering peregrines that nested along the high rocky outcrops, or the sound of the green woodpeckers in the woodland beyond.

He was slim, wore a waterproof jacket, and carried a small nylon bag slung over one shoulder. As he walked along the narrow track, he passed sites he had known for years. The remains of an Iron Age hill fort overlooking the sea. A series of limestone caves and quarries first dug by the Romans. Small coves and seaside villages once home to prolific eighteenth-­century smugglers. Eventually, he reached a high headland, and the cliffs that stretched ahead of him in a concave bend were no longer white. Instead, they were a tawny, dusty red, which meant he had almost arrived. Another fifteen minutes and he was approaching the outskirts of Seaton, a small town with a harbor, shops, churches, pubs, bed-­and-­breakfasts, and neat rows of white wooden beach huts along the pebbly seashore. It was approaching noon and, of the few pedestrians who were out and about, none seemed to pay the young man any attention. He made his way toward the center of town. As he walked, he reached into his bag and pulled out a pair of mirrored aviator sunglasses. He put them on and quickened his pace.

A few moments later, a middle-­aged bank clerk was sitting behind a plexiglass screen in the Seaton branch of Lloyds TSB, typing a few lines into her computer. A greystone Victorian building, the bank sat some one hundred yards from the sea on a narrow street of cafés and thrift shops. The clerk had just dealt with a customer and seen them off with a brisk smile. The bank was quiet. There were only two customers present: one who was already being dealt with by a colleague, and another who had just entered the building. The clerk looked up at the approaching figure and saw a young man with long blond hair and sunglasses, holding a small zippered bag. He walked straight to her screen and, without saying a word, slid her a piece of paper.

loaded pistol. no alarms. stay sitting.

She did not quite know what to make of this. She looked back up at the strange figure in front of her with the wry curiosity of somebody expecting a punch line. The figure, sensing this, placed the small bag on the counter and partially unzipped it, revealing a black automatic pistol. There was a pause as the cashier absorbed this. Then she began briskly taking money from her till before ...