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on August 10, 2011
Ben MacIntyre is quickly becoming one of my favorites authors. His penchant for writing about real life interesting characters with great research and storytelling catapults him far ahead of the writing herd.
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!
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on February 20, 2014
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.
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on August 21, 2016
I was only able to make it through five chapters. Usually I don't quit a book that I`ve started bit I just couldn't take any more of this book. It is extremely dry and the author goes into excruciating details about every person during this time period except the subject of the book. In the beginning the author states there isn't much known about Adam Worth and after reading five chapters I still don't know anything about him. I don't know how this book got such good reviews but there are too many good books out there, don't waste your time and money on this one.
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on August 19, 2016
Too much of this book was devoted to Macintyre salesmanship. So much wasted effort trying to show Worth as the inspiration for Moriarity was just promotion. If Worth was the inspiration for a fictional character it was more likely Raffles, the cracksman created by E.W. Hornung, Conan Doyle's brother-in-law and IMHO, a more careful author than Conan Doyle, who would have us believe that Holmes could tell a bicycle's direction of travel by its tire prints and who had people visiting Buckingham Palace centuries before its existence.
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on July 21, 2016
This tale is certainly interesting but spends an inordinate amount of time engaged in ridiculous speculation on Worth and the portrait he stole. It is a distraction and serves as an obvious filler as it is stretched out ad nauseam. One can imagine him sitting around masturbating while talking to the figure in the portrait.

I would have enjoyed more detail regarding some of the scams but overall found the account of the times and Worth quite interesting without the armchair analysis.
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on September 3, 2015
The subject matter was interesting sometimes fascinating. The author wove together a variety of topics over that overlapped. I learned a lot about the time period as well as the characters. However, there is a huge section which is very slow reading, and overburdened with speculation and seemingly extravagant description. I almost stopped reading due to this. I kept going and was rewarded with the last quarter of the book being quicker paced, less hyperbole, and more focused.
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on June 20, 2016
Macintyre lives up to his well-earned reputation with this one. He has become one of my top ten authors. His research for "ancient" biography is amazing. The characters come alive as does their action. There are chills and spills and many laughs as the story develops. It's a very good read about a master thief whose antics are often quite unexpected but never life-threatening. He exhibits leadership and a gentlemanly approach toward everyone including his arch rival with whom he occasionally sits and has a pleasant chat. You'll have fun with this one!
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on August 10, 2012
This is the 2nd Ben MacIntyre book I've read and I intend to continue reading the rest of his books. He has a knack for finding great stories, then telling them brilliantly, in a manner that is both fast-paced, yet also rich in historical detail. Oh, and he has a fine ironic, comic lens as well (as, for example, when he describes Adam Worth's manservant and hoodlum bodyguard, John "Junka" Phillips, as a man of such gargantuan proportions that "his mother had obviously mated with a grizzly bear").

Adam Worth himself was a classic "larger than life" character, rising from abject poverty as an antebellum eastern European immigrant, to elitist status in Victorian England, all through ill-gotten wealth, only to have the proverbial chickens come home to roost at long last. Worth's ingenious and daring crimes, his eccentric underworld associates, and, very notably, the equally larger-than-life Pinkertons, in all their storied glory are all presented herein. The book is well sourced, supporting its historical accuracy.

The author has a gift for weaving together history, biography, psychology, and humor in a manner that kept me fascinated from cover to cover.
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on April 4, 2016
Wow! I LOVED this book! It truly read like a fictional novel. I was actively engaged in the book from the very first page. I recommend this to anyone who loves a mystery and the best part of this one is that is TRUE. Ben MacIntyre's tireless research into the HIStory of Adam Worth is evident in this book. Adam Worth is the foundation of the character "Moriarty" in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes pieces. Not only that but Mr. MacIntyre also describes how the Pinkertons evolved from private detectives to the massive security organization they are known to be today. Not too mention some of the inner workings of the underworld and the art world.
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on January 14, 2016
Although the book has a lot of redundancy, the history and epic achievements of Adam Worth make a fascinating tale. Ethic and morality shift, technology grows, and families evolve. In short, we learn why he was truly Napoleanic in his creation of a crime syndicate.
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