The Napoleon of Crime: The Life and Times of Adam Worth, Master Thief

The Napoleon of Crime: The Life and Times of Adam Worth, Master Thief

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 ProblemThe Victorian era's most infamous thief, Adam Worth was the original Napoleon of crime.

And steal he did.Following a strict code of honor, Worth won the respect of Victorian society.

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.

Reviews of the The Napoleon of Crime: The Life and Times of Adam Worth, Master Thief

etc.) The book covers Worth's life of crime, the stories of his many associates and capers, and the theft of Thomas Gainsborough painting (this one) of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. That painting allows us to hear the history of Georgiana, which is still interesting, and continues to play a part in the Worth story as he developed strong feelings for it. My main critique is simply that here and there, the way the author's chosen to tell the story is a bit hard on the reader. And of course we have no indication that Worth read/knew of either of those quoted authors, but that's a separate problem. While they might appear repressed in sexual matters, a function of the fashion for strict outward probity, the Victorians were anything but frigid and knew a sex goddess when they saw one."This paragraph continues for several more sentences, with some newspaper quotes, all with the same information. (And in other chapters as well.) This really makes me wonder if Macintyre (the author) had an editor to help him (who might realize the repetition) or whether he felt that the story just needed more length (padding) and that this was the way to do it. The history buff in me would have felt those quotes would have benefited more from acknowledging the source (not just in endnotes), since the author constantly quotes both period literature, news papers, and current histories throughout the book, and the reader isn't always made aware of the source of info. The best portrait of Kitty shows her with a teasing, pouting expression which might have been borrowed directly from Georgiana."Looking at the photo of Kitty the author's referring to (this one, on this page) and the painting (this one) I can see no real resemblance. I can see a parallel in Kitty's duchess-like attitude, as the author portrays her, but I think any physical resemblance is wishful thinking. 147-148:"There is an uncanny resemblance in Worth's behavior, to that of Captain Nemo in Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but whether the culture-hungry crook read the book, published ten years earlier, will never be known. Captain Nemo is the archetypal criminal aesthete whose gallery contained "thirty or so paintings by famous masters...a vertitable museum..." Skipping 3 sentences comparing Worth to Nemo ...Where Verne's villain has his Nautilus and his sumptuous gallery to prove his superiority and rebellion, Worth had his false-bottomed trunk; where Nemo has thirty Old Masters, Worth had one."I really don't think this is a good quote for the situation - I mean, I can certainly see the parallels, but it's something I could see being discussed in a lit class, not relevant in a history text. Especially since there's no indication that Worth even read or knew of Verne, something the author admits in the first sentence. Again, this is not the first time the author pulls a literary quote in a way that has very little/nothing to do with the history, isn't useful as background, and isn't useful to set the scene. ...On page 212 the author mentions a 1945 book called Kitty, by Rosamond Marshall which makes a hash of Kitty Flynn's Worth's one time girlfriend whom he fathered two children with and supposedly always loved actual history but is apparently a bodice-ripper romance (and also a film). That makes no sense.) The important point here for Sherlock Holmes fans is that Chapter 23: Alias Moriarty is where you'll find that bit of pop culture history. Also specific story references, such as, in The Valley of Fear, Moriarty has a picture hanging on his wall that Holmes notes is "a picture by Greuze entitled 'La Jeaune Fille a l'agneau,' fetched not less than four thousand pounds." While "a 'agneau" is French meaning either from Agneau or perhaps something about a lamb - there's also the pun of l'agneau/Agnew - the later name is the art dealer who owned the Duchess painting. That's one example - the chapter is short but for Holmes fans is definitely of interest.

He had plenty of time for morals; it was laws he disdained. Along the way, he burglarized, robbed, or forged on five continents and became the model for one of literatures most famous criminal: Arthur Conan Doyles Professor Moriarty. Worth was uncooperative that way. William Pinkerton Perhaps the most startling thread is the master criminals relationship with William Pinkerton, the world famous detective. Macintyre follows Worth through the stealing and wasting of several fortunes, detailing his relationship with both real and bogus upper crust, not to mention some of the most daring crimes of the century.

He was none other than William Pinkerton, later of the famous detective agency and someone who not only kept a keen eye on Worth, or Henry Judson Raymond as he became known, but who, despite the pair being on the opposite sides of the law, befriended and even helped him. The author points out similarities between the pair and there is no doubt that Conan Doyle perhaps did use some of Worth's characteristics to create Moriarty. However, Worth, who continued his criminal activities to earn money on which to live, eventually wanted to return the Duchess to its rightful owners so he set up a deal, with the help of William Pinkerton and with a sum of money as reward to be passed on to him, to return it to its rightful owner. This deal was eventually completed and with Agnews in possession once more of the Gainsborough, Pierpoint Morgan, whose family was about to purchase the painting when it first went missing, stepped in and became the new owner.

THE NAPOLEON OF CRIME: The Life and Times of Adam Worth, Master Thief. Born in Boston to German immigrant parents, Adam Worth took to crime early in his life. His ultimate downfall came with his theft of a famous painting by Gainsborough, The Duchess of Devonshire. It turns out that the Duchess was a distant relative of our contemporary Princess Di. Worth was ultimately turned in by one of his associates, and soon lost everything.

Another good one by Macintyre, but for a change, not about spies in WWII, but instead a masterful criminal who led the Scotland Yard, the Pinkerton Agency, the French and Belgian police on a merry chase for most of his life.

Very good at times, The Napoleon of Crime is an appreciable attempt at the biography of Adam Worth, the man who served as the true-life base for Conan Doyle's Moriarty.

It sounded like a terrific book, and I'd recently read another book by McIntyre that was quite engaging. It sounds like the author did a lot of digging...

Since I'm not a Sherlock Holmes aficionado, I didn't realize that Adam Worth was the inspiration for the famous Moriarty until I picked up this book.

  • English

  • History

  • Rating: 3.80
  • Pages: 384
  • Publish Date: July 6th 1998 by Delta
  • Isbn10: 0385319932
  • Isbn13: 9780385319935