THE MODIGLIANI SCANDAL
Early Follett, originally published (UK only) under a pseudonym in 1977: an unlikely but agreeably busy and lighthearted crime-caper--with overlapping art-world plots involving a treasure-hunt, a heist, and a forgery seam. Dee Sleign, an art-history grad student in Paris, stumbles onto the trail of an unknown, long-lost Modigliani painting. So she's off to Italy, tracing the clues from a priest to a rabbi, from Livorno to Pogho. But two other hunters are soon following right behind Dee, hoping to find the Modigliani before she does: one is a detective hired by Dee's Uncle Charles, a suave yet tough London art-dealer (Dee made the mistake of sharing her big news with him); the other treasure-seeker is desperate young art-dealer Julian Black, whose brand-new gallery will fold unless he can come up with a major attraction. (He knows about Dee's hunt because he just happens to read a postcard sent by Dee to their mutual friend, actress Samatha Winacre.) Not complicated enough yet? Well, meanwhile, bitter artist Peter Usher, an overnight has-been, has decided to make fools of London's art-dealers--by sticking them with a series of grand forgeries. Meanwhile, too, the above-mentioned Samantha, a somewhat vacuous idealist, has decided to join with new lover Tom (a con-artist in guru disguise) in stealing the fabulous art-collection of super-capitalist Lord Cardwell (who just happens to be Julian Black's father-in-law). And eventually Follett will reveal one more secret connection--a nice, sly twist--between the London goings-on and the Italy treasure-hunt. . . which results in the discovery of three identical, long-lost Modiglianis! Elaborately contrived and full of holes--but fast-moving, quietly frolicsome, and neatly satiric in its quick-sketch closeups of the gallery/show-biz world: more for Donald E. Westlake fans, perhaps, than for Follett's usual readership.