The Napoleon of Crime

The Napoleon of Crime : The Life and Times of Adam Worth, the Real Moriarty

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The rumbustious true story of the Victorian master thief who was the model for Conan Doyle's Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes' arch-rival. From the bestselling author of 'Operation Mincemeat' and 'Agent Zigzag'. Adam Worth was the greatest master criminal of Victorian times. Abjuring violence and setting himself up as a perfectly respectable gentleman, he became the ringleader for the largest criminal network in the world and the model for Conan Doyle's evil genius, Moriarty. At the height of his powers, he stole Gainsborough's famous portrait of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, then the world's most valuable painting, from its London showroom. The duchess became his constant companion, the symbol and substance of his achievements. At the end of his career, he returned the painting, having gained nothing material from its theft. Worth's Sherlock Holmes was William Pinkerton, founder of America's first and greatest detective agency. Their parallel lives form the basis for this extraordinary book, which opens a window on the seedy Victorian underworld, wittily exposing society's hypocrisy and double standards in a storytelling tour de more

Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 130 x 196 x 28mm | 260g
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • HarperPress
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0006550622
  • 9780006550624
  • 109,853

Review quote

'A good deal more thrilling than most thrillers' Ruth Rendell, Daily Telegraph 'A most remarkable and entertaining biography. It is a highly charged thriller, a moving love affair, a dramatic history of the Victorian criminal underworld, a noble tragedy' Alexander Waugh, Independent on Sunday 'A well-researched and lively account...Macintyre has an appetite for fact, assiduity and wit' Asa Briggs, The Times 'This is a delicious mingling of through research, lyrical storytelling and empathetic crime reporting...a stylish, original, and picturesque story that reads better than the vast bulk of crime books currently in print' Michael Coren, Literary Reviewshow more

About Ben Macintyre

Ben MacIntyre is the author of Forgotten Fatherland, A Foreign Field, Agent Zigzag, Operation Mincemeat and Josiah the Great. He is the Associate Editor and a columnist for The Times and was the paper's parlimentary sketch-writer, as well as its correspondent in New York, Paris and Washington. He lives in more

Review Text

The very model of a major Victorian criminal - indeed, the original of Sherlock Holmes's nemesis, Professor Moriarty - is the subject of a true crime tale by Macintyre, Paris bureau chief for the Times of London (Forgotten Fatherland, 1992). Adam Worth, an American of German-Jewish stock, emigrated to England fresh from Civil War "bounty jumping" (by which enterprise he collected multiple Union army enlistment bonuses by deserting and re-upping under assumed names). Like many another alluring scalawag, he transformed himself, under the alias "Raymond," into a man of considerable means and social standing. The diminutive Worth was a gentleman, complete with upper-crust accent and muttonchop whiskers. He was an extravagant, clever crook as well. The fearless brains of organized crime, he eschewed violence and firearms. With the enlistment of safecrackers, forgers, bank robbers, feckless felons, and bumbling brigands who, in a later day, might have been labeled "Runyonesque," Worth's lawbreaking dominion covered all of Europe and both sides of the Atlantic. Branching out, he even ran a prototypical gangsters' nightclub in Paris. The cast of the picaresque story includes an avaricious coquette, a blundering Scotland Yard sleuth, and a private detective as determined and untiring as Javert. The detective, as corpulent as Holmes was thin, was William Pinkerton, a.k.a. "the Eye." Worth's most important score was Gainsborough's fabulous portrait of the fetching duchess of Devonshire. Entranced by the painting or, perhaps, by its subject, Worth kept the swag with him for two decades. It was Pinkerton, upon Worth's fall, who negotiated the picture's return - for a reward paid to Worth. The detective and the master criminal ended as friends. A delightful Victorian tale of colorful miscreants and dissembling rogues, told in engaging style. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

918 ratings
3.81 out of 5 stars
5 26% (235)
4 40% (365)
3 27% (245)
2 6% (58)
1 2% (15)
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