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The Napoleon of Crime: The Life and Times of Adam Worth, Master Thief Hardcover – August 1, 1997
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From Library Journal
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
- Publisher : Farrar Straus & Giroux; 1st American ed., 1st Farrar, Straus and Giroux ed edition (August 1, 1997)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0374218994
- ISBN-13 : 978-0374218997
- Item Weight : 1.45 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.25 x 1.25 x 9.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #362,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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.