Paperback: The Art Thief, by Noah Charney

Simon & Schuster £11.99
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The Independent Culture

Noah Charney writes liks a descendant of those Victorian gentlemen whose inelegant memoirs gather dust in neglected archives. Fortunately, he makes up for his awkward prose with a degree of specialist knowledge about art and art theft that at least renders his novel informative. If you can forgive the likes of "sonorous rumbles rolled forth from the open mouth of the sleeping Jean-Paul Lesgourges. His several gold-capped teeth glinted off the only light in his curtain-drawn bedroom", and the fact that lengthy portions of the narrative are delivered in dialogue, some of the asides about paintings are interesting.

The novel contains at least one lecture on iconography ("A parrot refers to an old explanation of how Mary can be pregnant and still be a virgin") and detailed readings of several works such as van Eyck's The Marriage Contract ("the woman looks like a bowling pin, this was the ideal of feminine beauty in the middle ages").

The plot? Some paintings are stolen in Rome, Paris and London and a range of experts must bind together to outwit a perverse criminal mastermind.

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