Title: The Art thief
Author: Noah Charney
Number of pages: 304 pages
Publication date: September 2007
“Rome: In the small Baroque church of Santa Giuliana, a magnificent Caravaggio altarpiece disappears without a trace in the middle of the night. Paris: In the basement vault of the Malevich Society, curator Genevieve Delacloche is shocked to discover the disappearance of the Society’s great treasure, “White-on-White” by Suprematist painter Kasimir Malevich. London: At the National Gallery of Modern Art, the museum’s newest acquisition is stolen just hours after it was purchased for 6.3 million pounds. While three separate thefts are simultaneously investigated in three separate cities, the apparently unrelated crimes have more in common than anyone imagines. In each city, the authorities enlist the help of a renowned art investigator, police inspectors, and Scotland Yard. A trail of bizarre clues and intellectual puzzles reveals forgeries, over-paintings, thefts, and double-crosses leading ever deeper into a baffling conspiracy.”
Three art thefts in three different cities are being investigated by different detectives: A Caravaggio stolen in a Church in Italy, the White on White Kasimir Malevich disappeared from the vault in the Malevich Society in Paris and another Malevich stolen from the Conservation room in the National Gallery of Modern Art in London. What do they have in common?
After several attempts to stole the new acquisition of the National Gallery of Modern Art in London, they finally succeed to stole the picture before even being tested for its authenticity. Now the thieves are demanding a ransom of the exact amount of money the museum pay to buy at Christies’. In addition a series of clues are left behind the White – on – white missing paint. To ensure the safety of the recovery they contact Mr. Gabriel Coffin an expert in art thief, who has worked for Scotland Yard and the Carabinieri among others. Mr. Gabriel Coffin works in the insurance company of the Caravaggio stolen from the church in Italy. Once, he starts to investigate this theft a lead takes him to London.
When I first starting reading this book, I was wondering how will it be linked the theft from one place with the one in the other cities. After I was impressed on how Noah Charney is able to spin the plot so everything fits in the most unexpected way. Noah Charney takes advantage of his background with the Association for Research into Crime against ART, a non-profit organization dedicated to help prevent and prosecute art thefts, and his own knowledge in art to create an impressive plot with touches of history and a great theft. The characters are very different from one another and sometimes seems a little stereotype. For example, you have the couple of French friends. One, the detective Bizot and his rich friend Lesourgoges. Sometimes it seems to fall in a cliché this relationship, always meeting in a restaurant so they can eat and most of the time talking about food. They don’t seem very intelligent but a bit lazy. On the other hand, you have the British and more or less famous detective Harry Wickeden. Someone distant that doesn’t get close to anyone (even his relationship with the wife seems distant and fallen into a routine), that never leaves a case open and always catches the thief, a very detailed oriented detective. He has no modesty and thinks a lot if himself as a detective. And my favourite character of the book, Mr. Gabriel Cuffin. A wealthy man that lost his parents but that has never recovered from that. He is very cultivated with good manners and high intelligence. When I first started reading about this character, that he is working in an insurance company trying to solve the cases to avoid the company the pay of high amounts of money, I was reminded of a character in the series Murder, She wrote. A friend of Jessica Fletcher that has the same job but previously he was a white collar thief. I like the way he deduces and links one proof with another.
One of the things I liked about the book, is the introduction of history of art forgery and art robbery in the plot of the book. It follows with the rhythm of the story line and helps you with the deductions of who might be behind. However, you really need to pay attention to all the names and the plot if you don’t want to get lost in it.