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The Napoleon of Crime: The Life and Times of Adam Worth, Master Thief Kindle Edition
He is the Napoleon of crime, Watson.
He is the organizer of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city.
He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. . . .
--Sherlock Holmes on Professor Moriarty in "The Final Problem"
The Victorian era's most infamous thief, Adam Worth was the original Napoleon of crime. Suave, cunning Worth learned early that the best way to succeed was to steal. And steal he did.
Following a strict code of honor, Worth won the respect of Victorian society. He also aroused its fear by becoming a chilling phantom, mingling undetected with the upper classes, whose valuables he brazenly stole. His most celebrated heist: Gainsborough's grand portrait of the Duchess of Devonshire--ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales--a painting Worth adored and often slept with for twenty years.
With a brilliant gang that included "Piano" Charley, a jewel thief, train robber, and playboy, and "the Scratch" Becker, master forger, Worth secretly ran operations from New York to London, Paris, and South Africa--until betrayal and a Pinkerton man finally brought him down.
In a decadent age, Worth was an icon. His biography is a grand, dazzling tour into the gaslit underworld of the last century. . . and into the doomed genius of a criminal mastermind.
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--The New York Times
"Adam Worth, the greatest thief of the 19th century, could have furnished the basis of a great novel...Ben Macintyre has given him a biography that reads like one."
--Los Angeles Times Book Review
A New York Times Notable Book
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
BEN MACINTYRE is a writer-at-large for The Times of London and the bestselling author of A Spy Among Friends, Double Cross, Operation Mincemeat, Agent Zigzag, The Napoleon of Crime, and Forgotten Fatherland, among other books. Macintyre has also written and presented BBC documentaries of the wartime espionage trilogy.--This text refers to the paperback edition.
- ASIN : B004FYZ3K4
- Publisher : Crown; Reprint edition (April 5, 2011)
- Publication date : April 5, 2011
- Language : English
- File size : 5028 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 379 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #302,624 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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The book reads a little bit like an "Ocean's 11" type of story - Adam Worth seemed to be able to steal anything he put his mind to stealing, but he somehow still appeared to be a decent man. He abhorred violence and refused to use weapons in the commission of his crimes, he was generous (to a fault), and he never stole from people who couldn't afford it. He had a bevy of thieves in his employ, some of whom he even sprang from prison, and he took good care of his brother (who was a fool but also an extortionist who preyed on Adam Worth's generosity and loyalty).
Ultimately, the book is a little sad, because I found myself liking Adam Worth, but his death was somewhat unremarkable and a little lonely, which I suppose is to be expected when you have lived an entirely dishonest life. His relationship with William Pinkerton, the famous detective, is also a little sad, because the friendship they developed later in life seemed borne out of the loneliness of two old men with more in common than you might think.
But overall, this is a fun and interesting read. Ben Macintyre has a very dry sense of humor that I love, which made the book that much more enjoyable. I highly recommend.
This time out he tells us about Master Thief Adam Worth, 'the Napoleon of Crime' who gave Sir Arthur Conan Doyle more than a little nudge of inspiration for his Sherlock Holmes's arch villain, Professor Moriartity. Worth, a transplanted American, also gave Scotland Yard a few headaches, and was always a primary person of interest for dang near every other police agency in the U.S., Europe and even a diamond heist in South Africa.
Better still, Macintyre gives us a good glimpse of the crime world of the Victorian era on both sides of the Atlantic, the efforts and reach of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and the failings and flaws of the criminals themselves who show that while crime does pay their money management skills are few and far between.
This book is surprisingly entertaining and I can only echo the tone of the previous five star reviews. It is well worth a read.
Starting another of your books, Mack and looking forward to it!
This is the stuff of fiction? No, it all actually happened. Adam Worth was an anomaly even by the standards of his own time (he disdained killing) and preferred to organize teams of cracksmen to maintain his highly organized "web of crime" in London.
It is not surprising to find that Worth was the original of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Professor Moriarty and that he earned the profound respect of his personal Sherlock Holmes, Alan Pinkerton. Worth was a self-made man in a very literal sense, from a poor immigrant German/Jewish background. He reinvented himself as an English gentleman and trained an Irish barmaid, Kitty Flynn, to improve her speech and deportment to pass as a Lady. Flynn eventually married a real sugar daddy and became a 'great lady' in a very literal sense, thereby making Worth and Flynn the originals of Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle as well as of Professor Moriarty and Kitty Winter.
This is a book filled with incredibly colorful characters who specialized in a genteel style of crime. I thank the author for providing information on my favorite New York fence, "Moms" Mandelbaum, and the safecracker "Baron" Max Shinburn (who is immortalized along with his enemy, Worth, in the Sherlock Holmes stories.)By the way, a character very similar to Worth is played magnificently by Sean Connery in THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY.
Truth really is stranger than fiction. I enjoyed this book very much and can highly recommend it to others.
Top reviews from other countries
Worth is not an admirable character, although we can see that he might have been much worse but it is difficult to understand at times why he rose to the top of his "trade". The author describes his exploits but fails to help us understand what exactly it was that Worth did that made him more successful in crime than his compatriots - other than think big. We maybe needed more details of how he planned his crimes and carried them out. The same applies to the Pinkerton men who pursued and tracked him down - how exactly did they do this and why couldn't others do the same ? More detail would have enhanced the book but I still thought that the narrative was clear and informative and written in such a way that it kept me hooked.
Worth's most publicised crime was the theft of the portrait of the Duchess of Devonshire which he stole and then kept hold of for many years. He appeared to have an attraction for the painting which is difficult to grasp. I thought that the author rather overdid this element of the book and maybe made more of it than there really is the evidence to substantiate but it is certainly a fascinating set of events.
This is an excellent social history of an era of criminality and corruption which hopefully is long gone. It is well written and very readable. The subject is fascinating and the author fills in the context well and tells the stories of minor characters to flesh out the main narrative. I enjoyed this a lot.