The Art Thief

I recently had the opportunity to listen to an unabridged audio recording of The Art Thief, a novel written by Noah Charney. I was delighted with the tale, a mystery without a murder involving the high intrigue of the vast subculture of fine art theft. In the world of crime, this is considered the most “high class” and glamorous thieving (though several characters go to heroic lengths to point out how in many cases such theft is used to finance international crime and even terrorism).

In this story of double and triple crosses, valuable works of art are stolen in separate acts in Rome, Paris, and London. Various detectives pursue the cases on their home grounds, each making dogged progress, or so it seems. Two manage to work through the evidence over gourmet meals at fine restaurants with witty banter and affectionate insults as delectable as the food they eat. The Roman theft of a Carravagio altarpiece soon fades from the story, but it makes a magnificent return in the last third of the tale, showing (as you already know) that the thefts are all related.

The characters are a bit cardboard, more caricatures than round characters, but what caricatures they are! They belong in this novel, meaning they fit very well and play their roles admirably. Along the way you can’t help but get a broad education in the world of art, especially iconography, which is a key driver in the plot.

This is a whodunit, but it is also a why-was-it-done mystery. Motives and countermotives abound in the tale, and while solving the crime is the province of the detectives, achieving justice sometimes falls within the bounds of others.

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