Books by Thomas Swan

Released: Sept. 1, 1999

Scotland Yard's art-crimes specialist Jack Oxby's globe-trotting quest for a legendary FabergÇ egg leads to a pack of homicidal Russians scheming to smuggle biological weapons. Oxby's third outing (The Da Vinci Deception, 1998, etc.) begins in 1916, with the mad monk Rasputin examining a bejeweled, intricately constructed egg that's come from the master jeweler to the Russian court, Peter Carl FabergÇ. Before Rasputin can deliver the egg to Queen Alexandra, however, Prince Yusopov murders him and the egg is stolen by a plucky servant. Several years and many dastardly deeds go by as this priceless object seems to bring calamity and death to numerous owners—until Michael Carson, the ÇmigrÇ son of one of them who now owns a chain of car dealerships, learns from Sasha Akimov, a crony of Carson's missing father Vasily Karsalov, that Karsalov was cheated out of the egg long ago in a poker game by the vile (but preposterously timid) Oleg Deraybin, an ex-KGB thug now head of a Russian crime syndicate that dreams of hiding biological weapons in American cars to be shipped to terrorists around the world. Before Carson can ask where the egg is, Akimov is cut down by sexy female assassin Galina Lysenko, who, with her husband Viktor, are being paid by Deryabin to make sure Deryabin's automobile importing agreement with Carson goes through. Meanwhile, in Europe, Inspector Oxby takes a leave of absence to hunt down the egg for collector Christopher "Kip" Forbes, son of Malcolm. More corpses pile up after Oxby flies to St. Petersburg to enlist the help of an old museum-director friend. Eventually, Oxby's touristic traipse through Russia leads him to Karsalov—and, finally, to New York, where Deryabin has marked Oxby for death. Unconvincing and labored, even when the charming Oxby is on the scene, though with plenty of fun facts about FabergÇ, Russian architecture, and New Jersey auto export lots. Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 1998

Following The CÇzanne Chase (1997)—the debut of Inspector John Oxby, of C13, the CID's Art and Antiquities Squad— Newmarket has reprinted Oxby's debut, originally published in 1990 as a mass-market paperback. Following three years of intensive preparation, well-fed art dealer Jonas Kalem is ready to offer to the world the discovery he's long been hinting at: a new page from the sketchbooks of Leonardo da Vinci, with others perhaps to follow. The first drawing, a study for the Mona Lisa accompanied by notes in Leonardo's distinctive left-handed writing, is worth millions, or would be if it hadn't been drawn within the month by gifted forger Curtis Stiehl, whose recent release from prison had closed the circle of Kalem's hand-picked colleagues in the fraud. Retired art historian Giorgio Burri has been waiting to start the ball rolling on authenticating the bogus drawings; unwitting American chemist Eleanor Shepard has been spending a year in Florence looking for likely sources of 500-year-old paper and charcoal; and Kalem's light-fingered assistant Tony Waters stands ready for whatever crasser skullduggery his boss may command, beginning with borrowing an authentic Leonardo drawing from the Windsor Library so that Stiehl can quickly make a closer study of the master's technique. The theft from the library goes off with all the clockwork precision of a good TV movie, but an unexpected glitch—the result of a police officer's incredible indiscretion—brings C13 into the picture for a series of cat-and-mouse chases that range from New York to Lake Como, where a showdown between Oxby's colleague, Supt. Walter Deats, and Kalem's troops provides a rousing, if unsurprising, denouement. Crammed with information on everything from Leonardo's pigments to the Royal Family's art holdings, though competently colorless in its own dishonor-among-thieves caper. (Book-of-the-Month Club featured alternate selection) Read full book review >
THE CêZANNE CHASE by Thomas Swan
Released: March 14, 1997

Busy debut of a British police procedural series featuring the quietly competent Detective Chief Inspector Jack Oxby of the New Scotland Yard Art and Antiques squad. Set primarily in Britain in 1995, Swan's first hardcover opens with a Mission: Impossiblelike smoking briefcase in London's National Gallery. As the fumes disperse, a small self-portrait by Paul CÇzanne melts into bluish, brownish goo. When another CÇzanne self-portrait owned by sleazy British financial speculator Alan Pinkster apparently suffers a similar fate, mild-mannered Inspector Oxby is assigned to investigate. A multilingual aesthete who spends his lunch hours communing with ghosts in Westminster Abbey, Oxby suppresses his dislike of CÇzannes (``I'd be mad as hell if this were happening to a Manet or a Degas'')—when the curator of Pinkster's collection is found murdered by an ingenious poison gas bomb. Before we can ask the multi-million-dollar question (why would anyone want to vandalize any of the 25 extant CÇzanne self- portraits?), we meet the villains: dour Norwegian chemical analyst Peder Aukurst and his sultry, pill-popping sidekick, Astrid Harroldsen, who breaks down in tears at the beauty of the painting she must zap with acid-laced hairspray. Both are in the employ of Pinkster, whose sudden financial difficulties have compelled him to turn a fast buck selling stolen art to Japanese collectors who don't ask questions. With fewer self-portraits around, the one that Pinkster wants to unload (which may not have been destroyed in the first place) will fetch a higher price. Against such intricately detailed background, Swan's too-numerous gaggle of supporting characters fade, including Oxby's oddly named helpers (are we supposed to think of the painter Berthe Morisot when we meet an art historian named Bertie Morrison?) and a fiesty French mobster named LaToque, fade. Competently researched and knowledgeable but an unfocused (if promising) debut. (Book-of-the-Month Club featured selection) Read full book review >