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

Ben Macintyre
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Jan 2012

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 force.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress; (Reissue) edition (5 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006550622
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006550624
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 23,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ben Macintyre is a columnist and Associate Editor on The Times. He has worked as the newspaper's correspondent in New York, Paris and Washington. He is the author of seven previous books including Agent Zigzag, the story of wartime double-agent Eddie Chapman, which was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award and the Galaxy British Book Award for Biography of the Year 2008. Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story that Changed the Course of World War II, published in January 2010, is the thrilling true story of the greatest and most successful wartime deception ever attempted. He lives in London with his wife and three children.

(Photo credit: Jerry Bauer)

Product Description

Review

‘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 Review

From the Back Cover

''He is the Napoleon of Crime, Watson. He is the organizer of half that is evil and nearly all that is undetected in this great city. He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker…''

Adam Worth was the greatest master-criminal of Victorian times. Abjuring violence and gathering the trappings of respectability, he became the ringleader of the largest criminal network in the world and the model for Conan Doyle's evil genius, Professor Moriarty.

Starting out as a professional deserter during the American Civil War, Adam Worth soon made a name for himself in the notorious Bowery district of Manhattan. Embarking on a campaign of bank robbery, forgery and fraud, he moved among the upper classes, emulated them, and robbed them blind. His most audacious coup – the theft of the world's most valuable painting.

'The Napoleon of Crime' is a true account of the Victorian underworld that rivals the most imaginative fiction.

"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 thorough research, lyrical storytelling and empathetic crime reporting…a stylish, original and picturesque story that reads better that the vast bulk of crime books currently in print."
MICHAEL COREN, 'Literary Review'

"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'

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and flawed at the same time ... 8 May 2010
By bookelephant TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
If I am anything to go by, Ben MacIntyre's publishers are on to a good thing in releasing a paperback of this book on the back of the terrific Operation Mincemeat; the first thing I did after finishing that book was to dig out this one, which has been languishing on my reading list for rather too long (in fact since 1997 - how did that happen?!).
And make no mistake about it, those who do read this have a treat in store.
The story is simply fantastic - the story of the man who inspired Conan Doyle to create Moriarty, and who was one of the pioneers of the inventive heist (eg the one in the Red Headed League"); the story of the gentleman crook with a strong moral code and a heart (relatively speaking) of gold; and the story of the two women he loved - the merry Irish Kitty who was his mistress but abandoned him to become a New York society millionairess, and the portrait of Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, which bore a more than passing resemblence to the lovely Kitty, and who (which?) the great thief stole and kept until his death was in sight.
A friend felt the book was a little "thin". I think I disagree, but I slightly see where he is coming from. It is certainly not short of incident or interest; the story rackets along like a funfair ride, at a great pace, full of events and excitement, and wonderful characters. But one would certainly like to know more about many of the incidents and characters, and the charge of "thin-ness" may have force there. Of course there have to be limits, and too much about the "gang" would unbalance the book; but I did feel that there was a bigger, even better book which could have been written.
My other "niggles" are more about the core of the book.
Read more ›
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb 5 Jun 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Brilliant book. I bought on the back of having read Agent Zig Zag & then Operation Mincemeat.

It rattles along at a fair pace, diverts off into some very interesting areas (& then back to the main topic).

If you are looking for an intelligent holiday read (I had problems in putting it down, which causes problems when you have work to go to in the morning)highly reccomended.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Napoleons of Crime 13 Mar 2012
Format:Hardcover
An amazing book which would be difficult to believe if it were not a true story.Adam Worth was a man of high intelligence,who used his abilities to further his life in crime. Living in a time of "PC plods",made his chosen career much easier.
Surely I see a film coming!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been fascinating! 18 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I like the author, but in this instance he wasn't able to really give any great insights into this Master criminal. It may be that because Adam Worth kept his own counsel that he was so successful, but it meant that the information about him mostly came from the FBI files. As a result they only knew about his failures or partial failures as a criminal, and the reader is left with far more questions than answers.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm quite hard to please in terms of books. This one by Ben Macintryre is a fantastic, fast-past biography of a man who was the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes's arch-nemesis Moriarty.

The fact that it's a true story and weaves in the history of the Pinkertons and the Duchess of Gainsborough adds to the intrigue. Adam Worth's story is truly fascinating. I couldn't put it down!
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