THE PLUNDERERS by Franklin Coen


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1945: when the U.S. Army's Art Looting experts find what seem to be the remains of the Louvre's ""Winged Victory"" hidden in Goering's chalet, they're puzzled--so Coen flashes back to provide the rather convoluted earlier WW II events that led to this odd discovery. It's 1941, Goering's in Paris, gobbling up art treasures--to please himself and to placate Hitler's fury over the Luftwaffe's failures; and, now that Goering has grabbed most of the private Jewish holdings, he's greedily eyeing the Louvre's treasures (especially the famed Winged Victory statue) which are now secreted in the unoccupied Loire region. So French dealer Claude Le Brun, protÉgÉ of exiled Jewish art-king Aaron Jacobi (the Jacobi collection is the only big one still safely hidden), pretends to be helping Goering and his vile cohorts, but he's really loyal to the Resistance--as are the Jacobi servants (Russian royal ÉmigrÉs) and Jacobi's daughter Sara, who has impetuously sneaked back to Paris from London. And when a Goering raid on the Louvre treasure seems imminent, the good guys (now joined by a raging young U.S. sculptor whose Jewish wife and child have been sent to a death camp) plan a daring forgery/substitution: they'll create a superb fake of the Winged Victory (with the expertise of old master Brazin), and Le Brun will fob it off on Goering and thereby satisfy the Nazi's art-lust for a while. This caper is more than a little farfetched; and it's tacked on as the last third of a rather slack, disjointed plot. (Weakest link: the romantic triangle of Claude, Sara, and the American sculptor.) But the technical detail of the forgery is appealing--the biggest problem is the weathering of the marble--and, while not in a league with the Nazi art-theft tensions of MacDonald's Provenance, this is a competent if often clichÉd serving of atmospheric entertainment (from the screenwriter of another Nazi/art variation, The Train).

Pub Date: May 23rd, 1980
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan