On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art today worth over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.
Making a living reproducing famous artworks for a popular online retailer and desperate to improve her situation, Claire is lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—a Degas masterpiece stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when that very same long-missing Degas painting is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery.
Her desperate search for the truth leads Claire into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life.
*Summary courtesy of Goodreads.com
I wanted to like this book. I really did. There were some details I found intriguing, mostly the passages about the artwork and the process of forging painting traditional oil paintings. I also liked that I recognized most of the places mentioned. I used to live just down the street from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where the heist this story is inspired by takes place.
However, I did not like Claire at all. Not that you have to necessarily like the characters you read about, but she felt flat. This could also be due to the narrator. I found the narrator’s voice grating and the character of Claire is already annoying, so an annoying narrator only emphasized the annoyingness. As I said earlier, the only redeeming qualities (since I don’t buy the love interests or friendships or the ease of which Claire is able to find her information) are the details surrounding art. Shapiro clearly did a lot of research in painting, art history and forgery. I have to admit I never thought about the possibility of forgeries hanging in museums, but clearly it happens!
This is Shapiro’s debut novel, so maybe her other books will be better, but I felt the characterizations were all over the place. I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but I also felt Claire was not a reliable narrator. By the end she seems to believe many of her own lies about the forgery. Because of this, I’m including The Art Forger as my PopSugar unreliable narrator selection.