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 employed a gang of ex-convicts as his detectives. His triumphs were many and he was the darling of the Parisian press- actresses, politicians and thieves hung on his every word. He invented innovative criminal indexing techniques and experimented with fingerprinting- He passed in disguise through the highest and lowest of European society, until his cavalier attitude towards the thin blue line meant he was forced out of the police service. So he began his own detective agency. The world's very first private detective agency. The cases he solved were high profile, from Pimlico in London to the excesses of the South of France, and he himself grew in notoriety until he was infamous. Whereupon he became a spy, moving secretly across the dangerous borders of Europe. The novelists Balzac, Hugo and Dickens all created characters based Vidocq and his life reads like a cross between a Wilbur Smith novel, Casanova's memoirs and the Scarlet Pimpernel.
This is gloriously enjoyable historical romp through the eighteenth century- in the company of a man who was many things to many men - a jewel thief, a spy, a policeman and a private eye. A man whose influence still holds to this day.