The Art Forger

Book: The Art Forger

Author: B. A. Shapiro, she is the author of several previous thrillers.

Genre: Commercial Fiction, Mystery

Reviewers: JoLee and Renee in higher education, retiree Nancy, event planner Kathy and research assistant Rosie T.

Publisher Summary: In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, two men dressed as police officers bound and gagged two guards at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts, and stole thirteen works of art worth today over $500 million. Despite thousands of hours of police work and a $5 million reward, the artwork has never been recovered. Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.

After a scandal involving the provenance of an acclaimed modern painting derails Claire Roth’s career, the promising young Boston artist, now a pariah in the art world, makes a living reproducing famous works of art for the popular online retailer, In a desperate move to improve her situation, Claire makes a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner, to forge a Degas masterpiece stolen during the Gardner Museum heist, the largest unsolved art theft in history, in return for a one-woman show at his gallery. Their romantic entanglement adds danger to their business arrangement and heightens the possibility of betrayal as each struggles to achieve the end that initially drove them into their illegal pact.

But when the long-missing Degas painting—the one which had been hanging for 100 years at the Gardner Museum—is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may not be the original, but a forgery itself. As she begins her search for the truth about the painting’s origins and its possible link to a secret relationship between Edgar Degas and Isabella Stewart Gardner–revealed to the reader through Isabella’s letters to her niece—Claire finds herself in a breathless race through a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late 19th century may hold the key to the mysteries of the present.

JoLee  Bio

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am an Art Historian, so, when done well, I love this type of thing. On the flip side, there is no fooling me if a novel involving art is not well researched. Never fear, The Art Forger, is very well done. For some readers, the details of Claire’s painting techniques and research methods may be too much, but I did not feel that the book ever got too technical. Sure, I had to just roll with the idea that Claire would get forgery training in a class, but I expect to suspend my disbelief at least a little when reading fiction. The novel takes place in Boston, and the reader gets a real sense of the city. As far as plot is concerned, I loved the many levels of deception and the mirroring of Claire’s past and present. This novel would also be a good choice for art lovers, Bostonians, and fans of the television show White Collar.

Grade: A-

Read Also:
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
The Muse of Edouard Manet by M. Clifford
The Expats by Chris Pavone


Renee {Eat.Live.Blog}  Bio

I didn’t even know I was interested in the art world until I read this book! Shapiro has a writing style that not only had me enthralled from Chapter One, but also had me wanting to know more about how paintings are made and theory behind art…not an easy task! Of course it is always fun to read a story set in the city you live in, complete with accurate street names and all!

Grade: A


Nancy  Bio

Claire Roth reminded me in many ways of Lisbeth Salander in the Stieg Larsson books.  Her mind was always calculating her next move and although it is easy to follow her thought processes, you never really know what the truth was until the very end. It was interesting how the author went back to the late 1800’s to provide clues through letters and how Claire’s past was revealed.   There wasn’t a lot of development of the rest of the characters but the story itself moved at a brisk clip and the mystery was revealed very early on.  I also enjoyed learning about the process of creating a forged painting and the techniques which allowed a new painting to appear old…it really made me think about all of the museum paintings I have seen over the years…and I can’t wait to go to the Gardner museum next time I am in Boston.

Grade:  A-


Kathy  Bio

As a long time fan of Isabella Stewart Gardner I have always been drawn to writing about it, whether the writings are of the heist or the museum itself. So when Red Letter Reads offered this book up for grabs I snagged it, and hugged it and called it mine. This book was a fun read – from its intricate research into the painting/aging process to the glimpses into the museum itself I was entranced. I could read about painting all day, and did with this book in my hand.

Grade: B+

Read Also: The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser


Rosie T.  Bio

This book was good; it had a solid storyline and enough character development to make me happy. I liked how the story was weaved together with interesting art history tidbits, and I also enjoyed learning about the artistic techniques detailed in the book, because I am decidedly un-artsy and never thought about the labor required to bring a painting to fruition! The only downside to this book is that it wasn’t quite the page-turner I was expecting – instead of being a fast-paced thriller trying to elucidate the truth behind the Gardner heist and the subsequent forgery issue, it exudes more of a “woman struggling to make her way in the art world, despite this problem, and this problem, and this moral issue…etc.” vibe. Still, I liked the book, and would recommend it to those looking to learn a lot about the art world, with a bit of a mystery thrown in.

Grade: B+



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Thanks to Algonquin Press for providing us with copies of The Art Forger to review. You can follow them on Twitter and on Facebook. For more from B. A. Shapiro, see our interview with her. You can find her on Twitter or on her website.


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