Skip to main content

Review: The Crimes of Paris, by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler

The Crimes of Paris is a book about just that: the crimes that took place in and around Paris from about 1880 to the beginning of World War I. The book’s “hook” is the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911, but the bulk of the book deals with famous murders, murderers, detectives, and gangs of fin de sicle France. The 19th century was an era in which France, beset by numerous revolutions, changed drastically, and the urban landscape with it. The way that people interacted with each other changed, too, hence the number, and variety, of crimes that were carried out. Changes in technology and scientific thinking enabled detectives and the police to solve crimes that had previous remained unexplained.

If you come to this book expecting it to be solely about the theft of the Mona Lisa, you’ll be disappointed (watch out: the story of the theft itself is sort of a doozy). One of the crime’s suspects, briefly, was Picasso. You wonder why he was considered a suspect in the first place; he had no motive for stealing the painting, nor was he anywhere near the scene of the crime at the time it happened.

The book’s strength lies in its descriptions of other famous (and not so famous) crimes). The reader is introduced to a host of historical figures: Vidocq, France’s first real detective; Bertillon, who developed the science of anthropometry; the Bonnot gang, anarchists who were the first to escape the scenes of their crimes via car; Meg Steinheil, who murdered her husband in cold blood; and many more. As I’ve said, the “hook” of the book is the theft of the Mona Lisa, in reality unconnected to the other crimes related in this book. It would have been better had the book been described as it really was. Also, the authors make flimsy, superfluous connections between the theft and the murders. But other than that, I mostly enjoyed my trip to turn-of-the-century Paris. The book is accompanied by 14 pages of black and white reproduction photographs.

Also reviewed by: The Biblio Brat, Jackets and Covers, The Burton Review


Kristen M. said…
I'm starting this one soon ... I actually mostly just got it because I was interested in Bertillon. He and his methods keep cropping up in my reading lately. I wonder what I will think of this book since I'm going in with different expectations.
Anna said…
This one is in my TBR pile. I'd thought it was fiction when I received it, but even though I'm not a big fan of non-fiction, it sounds pretty interesting.

Diary of an Eccentric
S. Krishna said…
I have this one on my shelf. I'm glad I wasn't attracted to it because of the Mona Lisa theft, I didn't even know that was in there!
Alyce said…
I've been interested in learning more about Paris in general, so this sounds like a book I would enjoy.
Danielle said…
I read their book on Mary Shelley and her book Frankenstein a few years back. I'm looking forward to this one--it sounds good! I just got it in the mail, so I hope to start it soon.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: The Tudor Secret, by CW Gortner

Pages: 327Original date of publication:My edition: 2011 (St. Martin’s)Why I decided to read: Heard about this through Amazon.comHow I acquired my copy: Amazon Vine, December 2010Originally published as The Secret Lion, The Tudor Secret is the first in what will be a series featuring Brendan Prescott, an orphan foundling who was raised in the household of the Dudley family. In 1553, King Edward is on his deathbed, and William Cecil gives a secret mission Brendan. Soon he finds himself working as a double agent, as he attempts to discover the secret of his own birth.There ‘s a lot to like in this novel, mainly in the historical details that the author weaves into the story. He knows Tudor history like the back of his hand, and it definitely shows in this book. Because it was his first novel, however, there are some rough patches. There were a couple of plot holes that I had trouble navigating around—primarily, why would a secretive man such as Cecil entrust a seemingly nobody with this …

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy:, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…