I scream, you scream…

The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art,
Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece
by Edward Dolnick
Hey, remember when
someone stole The Scream?*
Yeah, me, too.
The thing I didn’t know until quite recently—when I
was scouting books for a special book club—was that the story of its recovery
had been documented in its very own book. And this is a ripping good yarn,
people.
First: we know the
painting was recovered, so there’s a happy ending to this story.
Second: therefore,
the good guys win. 
And the chief good guy in this book is the larger-than-life
British/American Charley Hill of Scotland Yard. He was my favorite part of the
book, because that guy is interesting.
He appears to equally adore studying up on the art itself and putting himself into harm’s way in the company of thugs who
might kill him. That’s not particularly normal. (And guys? “Normal” = boring,
at least when it comes to people in books. [In real life, though… “Normal” = a
remarkably wonderful thing, methinks.]
So here’s what’s
great about this book: The author has a very pleasant writing style,
journalistic in tone. (I adore that.) And the story rips right along, starting
with a fairly simple break-in involving a ladder into a museum window, followed
by the shockingly audacious move of sliding The Scream down the ladder to make the getaway.
Now, this book does
that thing that some people really like, while others snarl, “Why didn’t he
just make this an article?” Because here’s what: There are several stories of
other art thefts blended in to the book. And I really liked that. (Though, for
people who just want the story of The
Scream
, this is not an asset.) So you get to learn about other famous art
heists—and marvel at how easily many of the thieves made off with priceless
paintings.
For an art dolt
like me, it was revelatory.
So…this is one of
those books that has enough going on—art, crime, police investigations, the
dark underbelly of society, a bit of international intrigue—that there’s
probably something here that will appeal to lots of readers. Though I’m no fan
of true crime, and my art expertise is laughable, this book just plain
delighted me.

It’s also the sort of book that prompts book clubbers to refer to it at random moments after having read it. This just may be one of the measures of a very fine book. Glad I read it!

*It’s happened twice in recent years: 1994 and 2004.
This book’s about the 1994 episode.

6 thoughts on “I scream, you scream…

  1. 🙂 I have a penchant for novels about art theft, so this nonfiction account of a high-profile case was once on my list. At some point I forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. I don't know if I'd be able to steal The Scream. The painting unsettles me under the best of circumstances, so add a fear of getting caught, a guilty conscience and the damn thing looking at me close up, holding its head and I'd probably be on the steps of the police station in no time.

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