Thursday Tea (March 18): The Napoleon of Crime

Thursday Tea Thursday Tea is a weekly meme hosted by yours truly. To play along, all you need is some tea, a book, and the answers to these questions: what tea are you drinking (and do you like it)? What book are you reading (and do you like it)? Tell us a little about your tea and your book, and whether or not the two go together.

The book: Okay, remember when I said I was going to read a lot of hardcovers this week? Well, that’s turned into “one hardcover.” I’ve been reading the same book since Tuesday (after a late start from trying to finish a boring fantasy omnibus from the 1950s on Monday) and while I’m enjoying it, I really wish I was reading this thing faster. It isn’t even that long or difficult to read! It’s just that I keep getting distracted by my new crochet hobby and by…Minesweeper.

Oh, that Minesweeper. It is such a time suck, but so much fun. Not really conducive to reading books quickly, though.

Anyway, I’m hoping to finish The Napoleon of Crime today, since I’m now over the halfway mark and making an extra effort to spend time reading instead of Minesweeping. Here’s what it’s about if you’re interested:

The Victorian era’s most infamous thief, Adam Worth was the original Napoleon of crime. Suave, cunning 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, dazzling tour into the gaslit underworld of the last century…and into the doomed genius of a criminal mastermind.

Like many modern true crime/biographies, the author has a bad habit of making connections between the subject and everything else happening around the same time. Sometimes this works, like when he dips into the history of Georgiana Spencer, whose portrait (shown) Worth stole and kept for 25 years. That’s interesting stuff, and she’s an interesting lady! I’d like to read a biography about her one day. But sometimes the connective tissue seems rotten, or just incorrect, and when it’s compounded by speculations as to the motivation of a person without any evidence to back up that speculation– it tends to come off as reaching.

But I do think Mr Macintyre has got a decent grasp on things, and he is thoroughly informed about Victorian life and the people who played large parts in Adam Worth’s own life. Unfortunately Worth wrote very little about himself, and had no memoirs (just a few letters), so Macintyre is stuck with other people’s assumptions and memories (faulty or otherwise) about him. Oh, and Pinkerton files, of course. I find the Pinkertons really fascinating, have done ever since I was in elementary school and read a kid-friendly history, so I really need to read more non-fiction about that whole thing soon.

Anyway, with so little available from the man he’s writing about, it’s no wonder Macintyre has had to resort to speculation, and so I can forgive him for that. Mostly. Some of it is just entirely too out there for me (I don’t think Worth had romantic feelings for the Duchess, for instance. I think he just liked keeping it because it made him feel powerful), but it’s a good book and one that I think people interested in Victorian history, true crime, or master criminals a la Danny Ocean would enjoy reading it.

(Yes, this is in lieu of a review later. Ha!)

The tea coffee: Good ol’ homebrew, taken to work in a thermos. Because I’m trying to save money, okay, and that means no more Starbucks. (Starbucks isn’t open yet, anyway. I’m at work REALLY EARLY today.)

Do they go together? Oh sure! Adam Worth lived mostly in England, but he was raised in America and I think he would have developed a taste for coffee. Okay, the book mostly talks about him drinking whiskey and other alcoholic beverages, but I’m sure he would have at least tried coffee. Right? Right.

That’s my answer and I’m stickin’ to it!

What are you drinking/reading this Thursday?

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4 thoughts on “Thursday Tea (March 18): The Napoleon of Crime”

  1. I have not been able to play Minesweeper since getting my laptop, and I miss it. I was pretty good at it. I think 99 seconds was my best time for Expert: nothing epic, but I was proud of myself.

    Nothing of course compares to the version of Tetris I had on my first computer. Best computer game ever. No other version of Tetris I have ever had has been able to compare.

  2. I agree with Jenny – the one downside of have a MacBook is that it doesn’t have fun games like mindsweeper or even solitaire. Which meant I had to go online in search of new fun games ( – Highly recommend Cryptoquote, although I’m sure the last thing you need are more addictive games).

    Anyways, I’m sure that coffee would have just given Adam Worth another opportunity to mix hard alcohol with something, so I say, Of course he would have drank coffee.

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