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"A book is a gift you can open again and again." Garrison Keillor

Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.” Jane Yolen

"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde

"Books have furnished, burnished, and enabled my life." Julia Keller

Monday, October 1, 2012

2012 Book 188: THE ART FORGER Review

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
ISBN: 9781616201326
Publication date: October 23, 2012
Publisher: Algonquin Books

On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art today worth over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.

Making a living reproducing famous artworks for a popular online retailer and desperate to improve her situation, Claire is lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—a Degas masterpiece stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when that very same long-missing Degas painting is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery.

Her desperate search for the truth leads Claire into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life.

Claire Roth is a struggling artist. She struggles with her art and struggles to overcome her somewhat infamous past. To make ends meet, Claire survives by making "copies" for the company Reproductions. Her work isn't forgery per se as it is clearly sold as a copy of other works of art. It is because of this history, along with her infamy, that she comes to the attention of gallery owner Aiden Markel.

Aiden approaches Claire with an amazing opportunity, an opportunity to "do good" according to Aiden. He wants Claire to forge a presumed stolen piece of art and he will sell the forgery and return the stolen art to the Gardner Museum. Claire will make a lot of money if she agrees and get a one-woman show in his gallery. Hesitant at first, Claire eventually agrees. This is the beginning of a nightmare, not only for Claire but also for Aiden.

Neither Claire nor Aiden are necessarily bad people, but their motives force them to make some bad decisions with far-reaching consequences. Aiden is primarily motivated by making money, whereas Claire appears to be motivated by the notion of "doing good," making some money and getting a show that will prove to the art world that she's a true artist. In Claire's quest to do good, she makes a startling discovery and attempts to find historical references to prove her point. Unfortunately, the impossible happens before she can conclude her research. Can Claire prove her point without further damaging her reputation? 

Ms. Shapiro has presented a story that is filled with history, drama and intrigue. The history surrounds not only the Gardner museum and the theft but also Isabella Stewart Gardner and Degas. The story highlights Mrs. Gardner's life with letters sent to her niece, detailing tidbits of her life and interactions with several European artists like Degas. The reader is also given glimpses into Claire's history and the debacle surrounding a piece of art her deceased, ex-boyfriend supposedly painted. Ms. Shapiro also provides great information on the history of art forgery and the techniques used to fool museums around the world. The characters are well developed and all of the action and settings seem quite realistic. The Art Forger is an amazing read, a fantastic blend of fact and fiction, and one that will leave you craving more information on the seedier side of the art world. This is definitely a must-read for those that enjoy literary thrillers.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from BookBrowse. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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1 comment:

  1. This sounds great - I feel like I am always reading murder mysteries these days and this seems like a different angle that will still give me the intrigue I need!