Monday, November 12, 2012

Review: The Art Forger

Summary: On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art worth today 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.

Claire makes her living reproducing famous works of art for a popular online retailer. Desperate to improve her situation, she lets herself be lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—one of the Degas masterpieces stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when the long-missing Degas painting—the one that had been hanging for one hundred years at the Gardner—is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery.

Claire’s search for the truth about the painting’s origins leads her into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life. B. A. Shapiro’s razor-sharp writing and rich plot twists make The Art Forger an absorbing literary thriller that treats us to three centuries of forgers, art thieves, and obsessive collectors. it’s a dazzling novel about seeing—and not seeing—the secrets that lie beneath the canvas. -- Algonquin Books

I have heard so many wonderful things about THE ART FORGER by B.A. Shapiro that I honestly wasn't sure that this novel could live up to them. Everyone seems to be raving about this book; and as a result, my expectations were extremely high. That always worries me because I have been let down so many times. However, THE ART FORGER really was everything I hoped it to be. It was beautifully written and suspenseful, but it also had interesting characters. In addition, I was continually surprised by the direction of the story and I even managed to learn a thing or two about the art world. I absolutely adored it!

At its heart, THE ART FORGER tells the story of Claire, a struggling artist who is trying to recover from her role in a huge scandal in the art world. Currently, Claire works as a painter for an on-line reproduction company; however, she truly believes she has what it takes to be a successful painter. So when Markel, the owner of a prestigious gallery, approaches her and offers her a one-woman show in his gallery, Claire feels like her prayers are being answered. But there's one condition, Markel wants Claire to copy a painting that was stolen from a Boston art gallery almost 25 years ago.

It's no surprise that Claire agrees to Markel's deal. As she begins to research and work on the painting, Claire starts to think that the "stolen" painting might actually be a forgery! She begins her own investigation into the history of the painting and discovers a web of lies and deceit that go back over a hundred years. At every turn, Claire discovers something new and even more surprising; and she quickly realizes that she has to solve the mystery behind this painting (and convince the authorities) to save herself.

THE ART FORGER is the perfect example of what a literary  mystery should be. Despite not really having all that much interest in the world of art and forgeries, I admit that I was intrigued by the story. Ms. Shapiro did an outstanding job of explaining the nuances of the art world, collectors, and Degas; and I loved learning about the history of forgeries throughout the years. I pretty much knew nothing about these subjects and I appreciated how the author gave just enough information to complement the story, but not too much so that I'd lose interest.

Another wonderful thing about THE ART FORGER was the story itself. It was brilliant! I loved the blend of mystery and suspense, and I also liked that Claire had a little romance in her life. What really stood out to me was just how well the story unfolded. THE ART FORGER isn't a traditional suspense/thriller type of book -- it's much smarter and quieter than most. However, there were still many surprise twists and a few of them really managed to shock me!

Finally, I absolutely loved the character of Claire. And by that, I'm not entirely sure I mean I loved her as a person... at least initially. Rather, I loved how interesting and well developed her character was. Because of Claire's past experiences, she was carrying her fair share of baggage. And then, she kind of made a deal with the devil and I wasn't entirely sure I liked her ethics and morals. But what I did like about Claire was how complicated she was. She was smart and determined and she was the first to admit that she was responsible for putting herself into these situations.

Furthermore, I appreciated how much she evolved throughout the novel; and as I spent more time with her, I grew to really, really like her. As the story progressed, more and more information came out about Claire's role in the scandal that rocked the art world. While I didn't always agree with her actions, I did find myself understand for her and eventually rooting for her. Claire was a fantastic protagonist, and I definitely liked that the story was told in her voice!

Overall, THE ART FORGER was an excellent read and I will be recommending it to fans of literary thrillers.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


Robyn said...

This sounds like a great book to read over the holidays! Thanks for the review. I just finished a wonderful book called, "The Sacred Impostor" by author J. R. Lankford. This a fiction thriller that is not Christian, but focuses more on religion when an infant is born with a divine nature like that of Jesus.

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

I so want to read this book! Glad it lived up to your expectations.

Kristen said...

I don't typically read mysteries but this one appeals to me quite a bit. Of course, I do like Algonquin's choices most of the time so... ;-)

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

yay...just bought this!!

Beth F said...

I agree that this one really lived up to the buzz.

bermudaonion said...

It sounds like this book exceeded your high expectations! I can't wait to read it!!

Karlie said...

This sounds like an awesome book.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful review! This book definitely lived up to the hype.