A tale about the notorious 1978 kidnapping of Baron Édouard-Jean "Wado" Empain, intertwined with the story of his famous grandfather, the first baron and builder of the Paris Métro. A multigenerational saga told against the backdrops of both Belle Époque and 1970s high-fashion Paris.
... riveting and disturbing ... Sancton has an eye for the grisly detail ... Sancton’s skill is to bring Empain’s kidnapping and its tragic aftermath, whereby he felt abandoned by his family and associates after he was finally released by his thwarted kidnappers, back into vivid focus by employing nonfiction novelistic techniques similar to the ones that Truman Capote patented in In Cold Blood. Like Capote, Sancton is interested in the emotional consequences of a crime and its psychological impact on the victim, the victim’s family, and the perpetrators ... Into his narrative, Sancton deftly interweaves stories about Empain’s grandfather, the first Baron Édouard (Louis Joseph) Empain, and his industrial exploits, which included building the Paris Métro. He also managed to interview Empain’s half-sister, Diane, with whom he was very close, and his daughter Patricia, who talks poignantly about how her father’s kidnapping and subsequent release wrenched their family apart ... The best parts of the book are the extensive interviews that Sancton did with Caillol, who is still alive and who looks back on events surrounding the kidnapping without fear or favor. Through these conversations with Caillol, Sancton is able to establish Empain’s extraordinary bravery throughout his ordeal.
... may begin like a James Bond movie, but the book is a multi-generational history rather than a true-crime story ... As it happens, the author succeeds in telling his tale without artifice or invention because even the most exotic and breathtaking details are supplied in abundance by the case itself ... No less fascinating is the parallel account of the gang that carried out the crime ... a book about the flash points in family, business, politics and diplomacy. At the same time, much of the narrative amounts to an expertly told and richly detailed police procedural. Above all, it is a wholly authentic thriller. For that reason, and out of deference to the author and his readers, the denouement cannot be revealed here.
Engaging, in-depth ... [A] detailed look ... An engrossing read about a multi-generational family dynasty and the lives they lived ... This is an immensely readable, impeccably written, and thoroughly researched tale of a kidnapping gone wrong. Ideal for readers who enjoy biography, social, political, and cultural history.