From Goodreads: 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.
This book has been on my TBR list for most of the year, and it took some time before the e-book was available at my library. I am glad I had the patience to wait.
I enjoyed reading this book. It successfully weaves fact and fiction into a story that is entertaining and left me guessing till the end. The chapters are short and mostly play in the present, but they are interspersed with flashbacks to what happened to Claire three years earlier and with letters from Isabella Gardner writing to her niece about her travels in Europe and interactions with various writers—most importantly Edgars Degas.
There’s a lot about technique in this book: how to paint, how to achieve certain effects on a canvas, and how to copy/forge a painting. (I never thought much about the difference between copying and forging until now….) But even if you are not familiar with this subject, it’s easy to follow along. I actually found this part quite interesting. As I am not an artist, I never thought much about all that goes into creating a painting either.
The pace of the story picks up in the second half of the book, and at times I wondered whether it could really all happen in such little time. But that didn’t interfere with the story. I also found it a little incredible that Claire could detect a forgery when so many experts had failed and in turn produce a copy/forgery that would fool the art world. But again, this little hiccup didn’t deter me from enjoying the book. I believe it is true that “we see what we want to see.”
While reading this book, I realized how long it has been since I last was in a museum. Too long! Now I really want to go and see a real Degas painting again. After reading this book, I think I will appreciate it even more than in the past.
I am planning to read The Painted Girls as a kind of a follow-up. I didn’t realize that book is also about Degas. Both books fit into my first book string.