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The Napoleon of Crime: The Life and Times of…

The Napoleon of Crime: The Life and Times of Adam Worth, Master Thief (original 1997; edition 1997)

by Ben MacIntyre

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3921145,764 (3.67)30
The Victorian era's most infamous thief, Adam Worth was the original Napoleon of crime. 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 tour into the gaslit underworld of the last century. . . and into the doomed genius of a criminal mastermind.… (more)
Title:The Napoleon of Crime: The Life and Times of Adam Worth, Master Thief
Authors:Ben MacIntyre
Info:Farrar Straus & Giroux (T) (1997), Edition: 1st American ed., 1st Farrar, Straus and Giroux ed, Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Read but unowned

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The Napoleon of Crime: The Life and Times of Adam Worth, the Real Moriarty by Ben Macintyre (1997)



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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Macintyre illicits your desire to read more about the woman in Adam Worth’s life. It’s all about crime and creatures of habit, love and lust triangles. ( )
  experiencethisbook | Oct 22, 2018 |
For those newly interested in Sherlock Holmes due to the new movie, this is a fascinating book about the 19th century criminal mastermind upon whom Arthur Conan Doyle based Prof. Moriarity. Highly recommended for any fans of history, criminology, or Holmes fans. ( )
  SESchend | Sep 6, 2017 |
Good but not good enough to hold my interest. ( )
  ChrisNewton | Mar 18, 2016 |
This was a DNF for me. I like this type of history but prefer that we follow history chronologically. This one starts with on of the biggest thefts of all time and then goes back to early childhood, then bounces around at various stages before we get back to the original theft. Once I start having trouble tracking where I am in time in the story (from pickpocket to safe cracker, to mastermind) I tend to get frustrated and give up.Some of the history of the Pinkerton's was also interesting but it also went from the father, to the son, to the uncle and back. I needed a roadmap, or a chronology. ( )
1 vote bookswoman | Feb 2, 2016 |
I really like Ben Macintyre's style of writing, and this book was no exception. I had no idea that Arthur Conan Doyle's Professor Moriarty character is largely based on Adam Worth, the globetrotting master thief that this book is about. He faked his own death in the Civil War, assumed a fake name, stole from countless banks and jewelers around the world, swiped a famous work of art, and ran an illegal gambling parlor in Paris, yet he was nonetheless extremely likeable.

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. ( )
  slug9000 | Feb 20, 2014 |
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Finally, the truth behind Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Professor Moriarty! He wasn't entirely from the author's imagination, but was fashioned after an American-born German Jew who robbed banks then reinvented himself as a gentleman of distinction and mingled freely with the swells whose money he stole.
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