Books by Douglas Skeggs

Released: Feb. 6, 1997

The blokes at MI6, wondering where unassuming Prague dealer Pavel Pesanek got the Rembrandt he sold for $30 million, have dispatched Czech-born agent Jan Capek to ask him. But it's too late for Capek to ask the late Pesanek, so his masters have to go back to the answer they already know: He got the painting from the vanished collection of that distinguished patron of the arts, executed Romanian President Nicolae Ceauescu. Who fed Pesanek the canvas, and where is the rest of the collection? These questions get this cloak-and-dagger intrigue off to a smart start, and Skeggs, staking out his hero between his old nemesis, Major Ludvik Vlasek of the Czech secret police, and the new heavy in town, National Reform Party empire-builder Jaroslav Kupka, knows how to turn a single knowing remark (Vlasek's offhand reference to ``the old days . . . when I was working for the previous management'') into a sly portrait of post-Communist Prague. But Capek's ignorance about Old Masters—he hardly gets within ogling distance of the Ceauescu collection and can't authenticate the paintings even under the very real threat of torture—deprives art-expert Skeggs (The Triumph of Bacchus, 1993, etc.) of his greatest strength. It must be exasperating to have your own hero hamstring you so. Nevertheless, Skeggs shows a nice line in weary Adam Hall- ish disillusionment before the inevitable round of betrayals and fatalities sets in. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 6, 1993

Of all the people queuing up to see Titian's Triumph of Bacchus—now on loan to the Royal Academy and insured by Trevelayan's insurance syndicate—none were more respectful of it than the men who lifted it, then demanded five million pounds' worth of uncut diamonds for its return. Pretty telly journalist Patricia Drew plans a special on the art theft, culminating, she hopes, with a splashy capture of the villains. Meanwhile, former Christie's employee Tom Shaughnessy has also sprung into action: He plans on forging Bacchus, evading the ransomers, duping the cops, and coming away with a fortune. From then on it's one twist after another, as Patricia searches for the truth, Tom leads her astray, and the two finally pool their skills and outwit the real culprits on an icy alpine slope. Art-crimes specialist Skeggs (The Talinin Madonna, 1992, etc.) is at his best describing how to forge an Old Master, and on less sure footing with derring-do in back alleys, etc. Tom and his irascible artist pal Scobie, however, are great fun to watch at work. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 17, 1992

When a Russian ÇmigrÇ spots a treasure from the Hermitage storerooms on display in a London art gallery, he complains to lawyer Pip Spencer, then dies shortly thereafter on steep subway steps. Murder? With his interest piqued, Pip makes inquiries of the gallery owner, an auction house historian, and a bureaucrat in Moscow's Cultural Department, where his queries reach the ears of Colonel Vassily Krasin, who, with his silent strong-arm, ex-GRU man Chibatar, sets up an elaborate coverup, framing pretty interpreter Katya. As the bodies Katya supposedly killed pile up and documents on her smuggling activities surface, the police of two countries search for her, while, at Krasin's instructions, she is trying to deliver a package—a Raphael triptych—to an English accomplice of his. Desperate, Katya turns to Pip for help, and the two of them unravel Krasin's deceptions, all aimed at making him a very wealthy defector with a new identity. Tricky plotting, with the unwitting Katya drawn more and more deeply into the violent machinations of her amoral lover Krasin. Routine but plausible art-world palaver, and about average derring- do from second-novelist Skeggs (The Estuary Pilgrim, 1990). Read full book review >