U.S. News and World Report contributing editor Boser provides a rich account of his attempt to unravel the mystery of the world’s largest unsolved art theft.
When he interviewed aging art detective Harold Smith in 2005, the author intended to write a story on his international reputation for solving art crimes. But Smith died within weeks of their meeting, and Boser began to investigate the detective’s biggest unresolved case: the theft on March 18, 1990, of a dozen paintings valued at more than $500 million, including a Vermeer, three Rembrandts and five Degas, from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. The Gardner case baffled authorities; to this day the museum offers a $5 million reward for any information on the whereabouts of the missing masterpieces. As Boser retraced Smith’s leads in the Gardner case, he too became consumed by the mystery, throwing himself headfirst into the hidden world of art markets and organized crime. He interviewed museum guards, art detectives, notorious art thief Myles Connor and mobster Whitey Bulger, soon discovering that many of the men linked to information about the theft had subsequently been murdered. The book starts off with a bang but slowly loses steam as Boser follows lead after lead in an endless maze of potential clues. Still, the various characters come to colorful life, and one of the book’s most appealing qualities is its depiction of art as a passionate human pursuit. Boser poetically contrasts the burning, almost unnatural desire art lovers feel for paintings with the cold reality that art theft is one of the easiest and most lucrative types of crime.
An enjoyable true-crime tale accessible to lovers of art and whodunits alike.