This gripping memoir of former FBI Art Crime agent Robert K. Whittman is a thrilling ride into the underbelly of the stolen art market. From the streets of Paris to expensive yachts off the Florida coast, Whittman tracked some of the most sensational stolen art.
Whittman’s career is the vehicle for the book and that alone would be a worthwhile read. Add in criminals, art dealers who knowingly trafficked stolen or illegal goods, a few international mobsters and some of the most notorious art heists and you have one terrific story.
As an art enthusiast, I found the facts of the cases fascinating. As a crime buff, I learned a few new things about art theft and the underworld. As a writer, I enjoyed the intricate twists and turns of the crimes and subsequent investigations. If you’re interested in art or crime or the FBI or police work in general, this book will give you something to keep you interested and you’ll learn a few new things along the way.
If you’ve read The Gardener Heist by Ulrich Boser you have to read this book by Whittman & Shiffman – Whittman was one of the guys who worked on tracking down the paintings that were taken from the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston. There’s even some new information on I.S.G. herself that was interesting because I’ve already read Boser’s book. Together, the two books give a fascinating account of the heist. Boser’s focus was on the crime, and Whittman focused on the effort to recover the paintings.
I devoured this book. I bought it because of the Gardener connection, but the earlier cases were just as interesting and the investigations were fascinating – especially when they involved more than one law-enforcement agency. It’s nice to know bureaucracy is everywhere…
The subtitle of this book is “the brilliant, eccentric secret agent who tricked Hitler and saved D-Day” and you can’t get more accurate than that. If you like spies, WWII, historical accounts, biographies, intrigue or just really interesting stories, than this book is for you.
Talty captures the essence of Garbo and his British handlers in a vivid portrait that leaves the reader captivated by the main characters and engrossed in the story. You should know that I’m not a WWII buff, and I couldn’t put this book down. From the initial descriptions of Garbo’s life in Spain to the conclusion of the book I was enthralled with the heroism, psychology, and audacity of the people who pulled off such a magnificent deception against all odds.
If you like spy stories (LeCarre, etc.) you’ll love this true account – it is every bit as daring and it reads like a novel most of the time.
I love art, art galleries and art history so this book seemed too perfect to pass up. Thornton provides a mini-field trip into the art world, focusing on several aspects of that often mysterious and secretive world where “art” is created and judged to be relevant.
Thornton takes the reader on a journey through an art auction, a “crit” (or art-critique group), an art fair, an artist’s studio, and other worthy stops which are enlightening and occasionally entertaining. How art is created, reported on, collected and valued is the central focus of this book and it provides a nice behind-the-scenes introduction to those of us who are not part of the inner circle.
Some chapters were more interesting than others, though. Part of that might be due to my own interests and experiences but it’s still worth a read if you’re interested in the inner workings of the art world beyond the occasional auction or open-studio tour. Since art is one of the few commodities that has not depreciated in recent years, this book is an interesting and informative look at part of what makes art so valuable that it is an investment for many people.