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JudithTop Contributor: Jigsaw Puzzles
5.0 out of 5 starsnor are they particularly smart. A lot of art in museums and stately ...
Reviewed in the United States on October 19, 2015
The world of art theft is not as glamorous as we might think. The idea that art is stolen so that selfish rich people can secretly own masterpieces turns out to be a myth. Art thieves aren't attractive types, nor are they particularly smart. A lot of art in museums and stately private homes is woefully under protected, and indeed, under insured. In a world of violent crimes, police are often reluctant to put much of their resources into art crime. Enter Charley Hill, a Scotland yard undercover detective and art lover whose passion is saving masterpieces before they can be damaged and lost to us forever. The premise of this book is Charley Hill's successful effort to rescue The Scream after it is stolen in Norway. Along the way author Edward Dolnick takes us on many side trips to learn about other art crimes. It's a fascinating topic, and Dolnick really has a clever way of turning a phrase. If you enjoyed this book, you might also enjoy The Art Detective by Philip Mould, an art expert from the British version of the Antiques Roadshow. Another good one about art crime is Priceless by Robert K. Wittman, a former FBI agent assigned to art crimes.
4.0 out of 5 starsthe shambolic quest to retrieve 'the scream'
Reviewed in the United States on January 6, 2017
The theft of an irreplaceable work of art is perhaps the most outrageous and fascinating crime our civilization can imagine. A jewel robbery is a terrible piece of effrontery, never mind the value of the object, but even the rarest gem is replaceable, or nearly so. Identity theft can make our blood boil, but it’s not as consequential as its analogue, kidnapping. If criminals can ever be romanticized, art thieves qualify for a Hollywood gloss. They must have taste, they must be gentlemen—and they are often portrayed that way.
Edward Dolnick says, “Phooey!” In “The Rescue Artist,” his breezy, entertaining survey of art crime and art criminals, he shows that art thieves are just like most other thieves, only dumber. He wraps his anecdotal survey around a close examination of the 1994 theft of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” as told from the point of view of the detective who led the effort to get the painting back, Charley Hill. Hill comes on as a master of the long con, assuming just the right undercover identity to wrest the stolen artwork back without actually paying anything for it. It’s an almost comical quest, as Hill maneuvers around clueless Norwegian police and incompetent museum security personnel, to get close to the villains who are close to the dumbos who took the painting.
“The Rescue Artist” couldn’t be filmed, because it disposes of all the master-criminal clichés Hollywood adores. But it makes a fascinating story.
4.0 out of 5 starsThieves and art are strange bedfellows
Reviewed in the United States on May 13, 2018
Very interesting account of the theft of Scream. The book is excellent at giving an overview of the ways in which museums operate in protecting or not protecting their art collections and the public's romanticized view of art thieves. A good book for those interested in art, police undercover work, and the more infamous criminals who have dabbled in art heists.
5.0 out of 5 starsAs thrilling as great fiction - yet all true
Reviewed in the United States on August 10, 2018
What an incredible story! This is as thrilling as some of your better fiction reads, yet is all true. I would love to have a beer with Charley Hill. Highly recommended for anyone interested in learning more about how real art detectives work.
I did not find the book very interesting, too long just to describe the character of the subject and in reality little substance to it. Several times I was ready to end reading it but persisted just to finish it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this rambling story of Charley Hill and the underworld of art thievery. Yes, the author can jump between thefts to make a point but the overall effect is surprisingly upbeat even though it seems the disappearance of great art is never ending.
4.0 out of 5 starsNot necessarily a book simply about the Scream painting
Reviewed in the United States on August 8, 2011
The negative reviewers are correct. The book rambles in the middle. Of 300+ pages, I'd say maybe 100-125 are solely on the theft and recovery of the Scream painting.
If you wanted to know just about the Scream painting, the rest of the book is a bit tedious. The rest of it is about art theft in general and how it isn't really like hollywood movies such as The Thomas Crowne make it out to be.
However, I rated it four stars because even when I thought, "where is this going? I want to deal with Scream and not this random robbery," I was still totally engrossed. I wasn't flipping pages (or whatever we call skimming on the kindle). I read the stories and they were fascinating.
The reason I didn't give it 5 stars (and i thought about it seriously) is because of the coverage about Charley Hill. It tried so hard to make him a deeper, more intelligent person and wanted to unveil him gloriously. I got the sense that Hill was a cool guy, but that the author was repeating the same thing. "He isn't afraid of danger, hates authority, spends a lot of time to detail." And even though he is heroic and puts his life on the line, you just get the sense that the author's admiration for Hill's persona is much bigger than what Hill has to offer. I didn't see Hill as a complex character, yet i felt like the author was trying to sell that theme heavly.
I liked Hill as a character, but i just got a sense that the author loved hill more than the reader ends up liking him. As a result it can be distracting. It's like watching a friend return from college and talk about his new college friends and meeting the friends and thinking, "meh, they seem nice, but i don't know if they are as awesome as advertised."
In the end, if you are looking for an interesting book that reads easy during the summer, this is a good one to have.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 23, 2013
This was a really fun book to read. Charlie Hill's life is almost like a James Bond film. There is lots of excitement, undercover agents, dangerous criminals, loads of money, and priceless works of art. You hardly realize you are reading non-fiction and this is actually someone's life!
My biggest question has always been, "Why would someone steal a picture as famous as The Scream? Who would buy such a painting?" Edward Dolnick explains this and much more, giving us a glimpse into the world of stolen art.
I would definitely recommend this book. My only problem was the author's excessive use of bad language. I suppose this was to give us a better feel for the characters, but my personal opinion is that bad language takes away from the narrative. Dolnick uses it even in places where it is not necessary and I personally do not enjoy that style of writing. Otherwise, a great book!
The story of this book begins with the theft of Edvard Munch's iconic painting The Scream from the National Gallery in Oslo. Although by no means a sophisticated theft, the painting disappears. The narrative features an undercover cop from London, Charley Hill, who forms a plan to recover the painting.
Former journalist Edward Dolnick writes fluently and grippingly. He describes Charley Hill and his methods, but also tells the story of other art thefts and their perpertrators, if known.
He also addresses the question of who carries out art thefts, and what can the thieves do with the paintings or artefacts once they are stolen. How do the thieves make money, if they do, and how can they be caught? Art theft is a huge problem and paintings are treated by the thieves and press as commodities, although stealing a work by a master from a Museum also deprives the public of sharing their beauty.
This is an excellent book and an exciting read. It also contains interesting illustrations, which is not always the case with books about art thefts.
I would also highly recommend Edward Dolnick's book The Forger's Spell, about a master art forger.