LOOT by Aaron Elkins


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Fifty years after the Lost Truck fabled among art connoisseurs disappeared amid the detritus of the Third Reich, along with some 106 Old Masters, one of the precious paintings—Vel†zquez’s Count of Torrijos—has surfaced in a Boston pawnshop, as local expert Ben Revere satisfies himself on a hurried trip to the Museum of Fine Arts. But the painting is trouble for everybody, beginning with Ben’s acquaintance Simeon Pawlovsky, the pawnbroker who bought it for $100 and got killed hours later by a hooligan who’s unaccountably tracked the canvas to him. As the only living expert who’s seen the Count, Ben is the logical person to authenticate the painting’s companion, the Countess of Torrijos, for Count Albrecht von Stetten, who claims the Nazis seized it from his family. When Ben flies to Vienna on a $1,000-a-day retainer, however, he walks into an eerily similar scenario: hours after he’s pronounced the Countess genuine, the seller, shady Czech dealer Zykmund Dulska, is killed and the painting snatched away. Is the emergence of two treasures from the Lost Truck proof that the other 104 aren’t far away? How many claimants to the Vel†zquezes will turn up with stories that they purchased them in good faith since (or even before) the war? And, even if you can believe that a scruffy nobody would pawn one of the paintings for $100, why did sticky-fingered Dulska let the other one go for a mere finder’s fee of $125,000? Elkins (Twenty Blue Devils, 1996, etc.) produces canny answers to all these questions in this entertaining return to one of art history’s darkest chapters.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-688-15927-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1999


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