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The Art Thief

The Art Thief

A Novel

  • reading group guide
Rome: In the small Baroque church of Santa Giuliana, a magnificent Caravaggio altarpiece disappears without a trace in the middle of the night.

Paris: In the basement vault of the Malevich Society, curator Geneviéve Delacloche is shocked to discover the disappearance of the Society's greatest treasure, White-on-White by Suprematist painter Kasimir Malevich.

London: At the National Gallery of Modern Art, the museum's latest acquisition is stolen just hours after it was purchased for more than six million pounds.

In The Art Thief, three thefts are simultaneously investigated in three cities, but these apparently isolated crimes have much more in common than anyone imagines. In Rome, the police enlist the help of renowned art investigator Gabriel Coffin when tracking down the stolen masterpiece. In Paris, Geneviéve Delacloche is aided by Police Inspector Jean-Jacques Bizot, who finds a trail of bizarre clues and puzzles that leads him ever deeper into a baffling conspiracy. In London, Inspector Harry Wickenden of Scotland Yard oversees the museum's attempts to ransom back its stolen painting, only to have the masterpiece's recovery deepen the mystery even further.

A dizzying array of forgeries, overpaintings, and double-crosses unfolds as the story races through auction houses, museums, and private galleries -- and the secret places where priceless works of art are made available to collectors who will stop at nothing to satisfy their hearts' desires.

Full of fascinating art-historical detail, crackling dialogue, and a brain-teasing plot, Noah Charney's debut novel is a sophisticated, stylish thriller, as irresistible and multifaceted as a great work of art.
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  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416550310 | 
  • September 2008
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Meet Noah Charney

Noah Charney discusses the field of art crime, studying at Oxford university, and the truth in his novel "The Art Thief."

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Reading Group Guide

Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. In Chapter 4, the author spends a great deal of time detailing Gabriel Coffin, "one of the art world's strangest characters." What are some of the most pertinent characteristics that we learn about Coffin when he is first introduced? Were you to use one word to describe him, what would it be? Do you consider him good or bad?
2. Coffin's "job was to protect art from the wicked, the criminal. To hunt down thieves. But could there be a good thief?" (p. 53) How would you answer this question? Did your answer change during the course of reading this book? If so, why?
3. "Nothing an author could contrive is half as bizarre as events that have truly happened." (p. 122) Do you agree with this sentiment? Could this story have happened?
4. Malevich's painting White on White, when compared to Caravaggio's work, brings up a number of questions regarding the nature of art. Elizabeth Van Der Mier notes of the thieves, "They want us to conclude that money should be better spent than on a piece of canvas painted white." (p. 215) Is she correct? Could stealing art be another form of art criticism?
5. Gabriel says, "There is no vengeance which may be inflicted, as biting and as limitless as regret." (p. 263) Do you think that he is right?
6. After solving their end of the case, Bizot and Lesgourges have a meaningful conversation about art and their treasure hunt. Bizot says, "For thoughtful people, there is a reason fo see more

About the Author

Noah Charney
Photo Credit:

Noah Charney

Noah Charney, twenty-seven years old, holds degrees in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art and Cambridge University. He is the founding director of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA), the first international think tank on art crime. He divides his time between New Haven, Connecticut; Cambridge, England; and Rome, Italy.

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