The Murderer of Warren Street

Written by Marc Mulholland
Review by Cassandra Clark

This is the true story of a 19th-century revolutionary, but if you didn’t know that at first glance, you would believe it to be a work of fiction from the way it opens with a murderous encounter between revolutionary Emmanuel Barthelemy, and his ex-employer, George Moore. The pace and detail are worthy of any crime novel. With a graphic description of the murder of two men in the respectable quarter of Fitzrovia one dank December evening in 1854, the story of the radical activist journeying from boyhood to the scaffold at Newgate is replete with evidence from official documents, newspapers and eye-witness accounts. One of the dying men on this terrible night is able to make a statement, here reproduced, identifying his killer to the surgeon who tries to save his life.

Add to the story a mysterious woman, and the fact that the killer had in his pocket a note confirming his intention to assassinate Napoleon III, and was in fact on his way back to France to do just that, Mulholland supplies the essentials for a thrilling political crime novel. In a few lines he sets the scene: Victorian London seething in the first throes of the industrial revolution and France with its at first derided dictator, Napoleon III, seen by the English as an upstart until by 1854 with opinion swinging his way he became celebrated as an ally. This, says Mulholland, vexes Barthelemy ‘almost to wildness.’ Indeed, it vexes him to murder as all hope of bringing down the capitalist dictatorship fades to nothing. This is a carefully researched account, not only of a cold-blooded murder but also of one man’s fight to conclude what the French Revolution started.