Harper Collins, $27.99, 467 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-232005-6
One of the greatest tragedies in the world today—and God knows there’s no shortage of them to choose from—is the huge and ever-expanding loss of the world’s art heritage due to theft . . . crimes that are often underwritten by some of the globe’s wealthiest citizens and performed by teams of well organized professional criminals. The stolen treasures are priceless, irreplaceable, seldom recovered, usually underinsured and often located in poorly, or altogether unsecured locations . . . which makes them easy targets. Add to this, the fact that the thieves are hardly ever caught and it becomes painfully obvious that the cultural heritage of the world is disappearing. All one has to do to appreciate the dimensions of the problem is to Google the words art theft. Why should you care? Because we all stand on the shoulders of those who’ve gone before. Human knowledge is cumulative; each of us learn from our elders, add to that knowledge, then pass it on to the younger generation, who will do the same, on and on ad infinitum. When our art treasures are gone we’re all deprived of the opportunity to observe, learn from and educate and then pass on that learning. It’s a tragedy of epic dimensions, and it affects everyone, from lowest to the highest society.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the introduction to this weeks MBR No. 193.
The Heist, by Daniel Silva, once again features Gabriel Allon, the legendary secret agent and assassin of the Israeli Mossad, as well as a world class art restorer. He’s in Italy, working on a renaissance-era altarpiece when he’s contacted by General Cesare Ferrari, the head of Italy’s Division for the Defense of Cultural Patrimony, better known as the Art Squad, whose mission is protecting the countries art treasures and recovering stolen artworks. The General informs Gabriel that his friend Julian Isherwood, the eccentric London art dealer, has stumbled into a crime scene in Lake Como, Italy in which a British spy has been tortured and brutally murdered. The slain man has been trafficking in stolen works of art and selling them to a secret collector with fabulous wealth and means—and a total disregard for the covenants of international law. His identity however, remains a closely guarded secret the Brit took to his grave. Now, Isherwood is being charged with the gruesome murder unless Gabriel can find the mysterious collector criminal and at the same time, locate one of the world’s most famous, valuable and sought after masterpieces, the iconic, Nativity with St. Francis and St Lawrence by Caravaggio, the baroque master who died at age thirty-eight in 1610.
The hunt takes Gabriel from the swank salons of London and Paris to the criminal underworld of Marseilles and Corsica, then to a small, very private bank in Austria where a sinister man protects the stolen wealth of a blood-drenched dictator. To coax his quarry out of hiding, the always resourceful Gabriel Allon decides that the best way to recover the stolen artwork is to steal more art . . .
The Heist will keep you busy guessing through its intricate plot twists and turns while you thoroughly enjoy yourself reading this entertaining, educational and dramatic spy thriller.