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The First Detective: The Life and Revolutionary Times of Eugene Vidocq, Criminal, Spy and Private Eye

3.05  ·  Rating Details ·  83 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
Eugene Vidocq was born in France in 1775 and his life spanned the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars and the 1848 revolutions. When Vidocq himself published his memoirs they were an overnight bestseller — a European publishing sensation. He was the Morse, the Guv'nor, the James Bond of his day.

A notorious criminal and prison escaper, he turned police officer and employ
...more
Hardcover, 340 pages
Published March 1st 2005 by Ebury Press
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jessi
May 14, 2012 Jessi rated it it was ok
Well. This book took me nearly seven months to read. I heard about it on the "Classic Mysteries" podcast and the guy described Vidocq as the prototype for Sherlock Holmes as well as characters from Poe and Dumas. If I hadn't lent the book to my father and then taken two months to get it back, and then not picked it up for another two months, I probably would have read the first fifty pages and called it good.
Vidocq is an interesting character who goes from criminal, to policeman, to the man who
...more
L Greyfort
Mar 22, 2012 L Greyfort rated it did not like it


Um, no.....No, no.....no.....NO.

This is NOT the first Sherlock Holmes detective. This is the first slimy-guy-you-hire-to-take-pictures-of-your-cheating-husband detective.

Therefore, pretty boring and monotonous.
Paul Agapow
Jan 22, 2014 Paul Agapow rated it really liked it
A entertaining slice of history. The construction of the book is awkward in some ways (a slight assumption you already know who Vidocq is, a fascination with minor details like exact dates and amounts, the occasional unintelligible sentence due to multiple qualifiers: e.g. "It is not impossible to deny that this did not happen ...") but the story of Vidocq is largely an excuse for the author to tell scores of colorful stories and details, some of which are admittedly only tenuously linked to the ...more
Dan
Jul 21, 2011 Dan rated it liked it
This is an interesting tale of Eugene-Francois Vidoq, the petty thief who became head of the Paris police in the early 19th century. It is almost too complete and I got bogged down at times trying to keep the various criminals straight before they became police informers or lost their heads. The literary connections are quite interesting. Later in his life he became friends with Balzac, de Maupassant, and Victor Hugo and some of his cases and anecdotes were worked into several of their novels an ...more
Claire
Jul 26, 2011 Claire added it
Wonderful. Intelligent, witty and very entertaining, this is the kind of historical writing that really brings the people, places and events of the past alive. Morton writes with great zest about the life of Vidocq, a man who crossed the boundaries between criminal and law enforcement officer with consumate ease, managing to make this egotistical and priapic character seem almost likeable and noting his subject's faults and foibles with a wry amusement. This is a beautifully written, beautifully ...more
Margaret Sankey
Jan 20, 2015 Margaret Sankey rated it liked it
Vidocq has one of those lives too bizarre for fiction--a childhood of rebellion and petty crime (and literally running off with the circus), soldiering for the French Revolution, hiding out with gypsies, then the climb from police informant to police detective (use a thief to catch a thief...), implementing all kinds of cutting-edge techniques, like disguises, casting shoe prints and inventing unalterable bond paper, before being too tempted to misbehave to remain part of the Sûreté. His later y ...more
Dexter
FINALLY finished this book. I have literally been reading this for over a month. For me, that is a LONG time.

Vidocq is certainly an interesting man (which is why I read a book about him), and James Morton does cover all the details. However, he kind of gives too much backstory about every other person ever to encounter Vidocq. You have to be extremely in the know about French history to follow all of the backstories and histories and rumors and drama that goes on throughout Vidocq's long life. N
...more
Christopher Fuchs
Nov 10, 2015 Christopher Fuchs rated it really liked it
Fascinating nonfiction that is like a blend of "The Count of Monte Cristo" and "Sherlock Holmes".
Xarah
Vidocq's history and his rise was quite interesting; however, I found the writing style not very approachable. Morton added too much information that seemed to detract from the story.
Robert Mcfarland
May 13, 2015 Robert Mcfarland rated it did not like it
Did not like it ... the storyline was awful and it never catch me to enjoy it... didnt finish it...
Stan
Jul 13, 2011 Stan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Note: The version of the dust jacket of my copy is the same as the original 2004 Ebury Press edition, but it has this ISBN13.
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