The First Detective

The Life and Revolutionary Times of VIDOCQ: Criminal, Spy and Private Eye

By James Morton
(Overlook Press, Hardcover, 9781590206386, 266pp.)

Publication Date: June 2011

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback

Shop Local
Enter your zip code below to find indies closest to you.


Eugene Fran?ois Vidocq was born in France in 1775 and his life spanned the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars and the 1848 revolutions. He was the Inspector Morse, the Sherlock Holmes, the James Bond of his day. A notorious criminal, he turned police officer and employed a gang of ex-convicts as his detectives. He invented innovative criminal indexing techniques and experimented with fingerprinting, until his cavalier attitude towards the thin blue line forced him out of the police. So he began the world's very first private detective agency.
The cases he solved were high profile and he grew in notoriety. However, his infamy didn't prevent him from becoming a spy and moving secretly across the dangerous borders of Europe. This is a gloriously enjoyable historical romp through the eighteenth century in the company of the man whose influence still holds to this day.

Friday, Jul 1, 2011

Eugene-Francois Vidocq was a common criminal who became the world's first detective. Robert Siegel talks with author James Morton about this 19th century Frenchman. Morton's book, The First Detective: The Life and Revolutionary Times of Vidocq: Criminal, Spy and Private Eye, is out this week. More at

NPR Audio Player Requires Flash Upgrade: Please upgrade your plug-in to view this content.

Indie Bookstore Finder

Update Profile