THE BIDDERS by John Baxter

THE BIDDERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The world of high-price auctioneers -- in a London/New York saga that begins with warmth and snap but soon winds down into just-competent sex-and-intrigue. It's 1934, and while Jake Hershman and son Nat are parlaying an 11th St. junk shop into a Central Park West gallery, Simon Snow of London is making over his staid old family fine-art-auction firm -- a process which involves taking on the services of dashing young David Moore, a ragtag door-knocker and country-house scrounger with no polish but plenty of street savvy. How do these two plots connect? Well, when Simon woos away David's cool, ambitious lady-love Cicely, David is eager to take a job far away -- like in America, where his first assignment for ruthless art-shark Carl Bleigen is to reveal a Bellini as a fake . . . which results in the bankruptcy of the House of Hershman and the suicide of Nat H. himself. David's reward: managership of Hershman's (back on 11th St. again). But even as David builds himself a fine-art-dealing empire from this base, he has a new archenemy plotting against him--Nat's fat little daughter Sara, who's determined to destroy this Englishman who ruined her beloved Papa. And so it goes, into the Fifties, as Sara grows up (still plump), goes to work for David, fails in love (and bed) with him, but renews her revenge-obsession after he manipulates her in a N.Y./London deal. The anti-David scheme involves framing him for some doubledealing with a dead artist's work (… la Rothko), and along the way Sara has a lesbian liaison and a longterm relationship with the knowledgeable chap who now runs Snow's of London. Plus: a finale that has Sara auctioning off the contents of a Xanadu-like manse in California. Unfortunately, Baxter's characters lose their charm in direct proportion to the escalation of those jet-hopping couplings and conspiracies--but be has packed in a good deal of vivid fine-arts commerce lore here; so readers with a taste for vicarious bidding and buying may well be willing to overlook the unconvincing motivations and formula plottings.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1979
Publisher: Lippincott