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

2.86 of 5 stars 2.86  ·  rating details  ·  43 ratings  ·  8 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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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
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
L Greyfort

Um, 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
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
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
Very interesting. After reading this book, I'm somewhat surprised Vidocq isn't better known outside of France. My god, his life read like a screen play that desperately needs to be edited--from theft, to disguises, to prison breaks, to torrid love affairs, he had it all.
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.
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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