This is a biography that begins with a bang, swiftly followed by puddles of blood, shrieks of ‘Murder!’ and a chase through the foggy streets of Victorian London.
On 8 December 1854, a French émigré was walking through Fitzrovia, close to the heart of radical London, having recently left a pistol-shooting range in Westminster. He had a companion: a mysterious woman with a letter in her pocket and unknown intentions in her heart. It was a cold, wet night. At just past eight o’clock, they arrived at 73 Warren Street, a narrow town house near Tottenham Court Road, where George Moore (a soda water manufacturer who had employed the émigré as an engineer) lived, and were shown into the plush parlour to wait for him.
At first the three chatted amicably over some of Moore’s fizzy drinks.