The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

July 3, 2013

the art forger Plot summary (from the publisher): Almost twenty-five years after the infamous art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum—still the largest unsolved art theft in history—one of the stolen Degas paintings is delivered to the Boston studio of a young artist. Claire Roth has entered into a Faustian bargain with a powerful gallery owner by agreeing to forge the Degas in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But as she begins her work, she starts to suspect that this long-missing masterpiece—the very one that had been hanging at the Gardner for one hundred years—may itself be a forgery. The Art Forger is a thrilling novel about seeing—-and not seeing-—the secrets that lie beneath the canvas.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • Some of the information about how paintings are copied/forged was quite interesting. It’s clear that the author either is an artist herself or did a fair bit of research into the topic.
  • A lot of what the author wrote about forged artwork fooling so-called “experts” and “authenticators” sounded eerily similar to the opening chapters of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink. Since I liked Blink, I enjoyed the overlap.
  • This book had a very strong premise: Claire being commissioned to copy a Degas to pass off as real in a fraudulent sale. That’s initially why I checked the book out; unfortunately, the author didn’t stay the course as I’d hoped.

Disliked:

  • Claire was just such a whiny, grating protagonist that I couldn’t get behind her at all. In fact, it was her over-the-top hysterics in situations that were even just the slightest bit challenging that led me to classify this book as “chick lit” instead of “crime/thriller”. I didn’t like anything about her and was hoping that she would fail to find the real painting.
  • The “romance” angle between Markel and Claire was a waste of time. I guess Claire’s love for Markel was supposed to be the driving force behind her going all out to help clear his name, but I didn’t buy it. Not at all. They were together for, what, two weeks before he got arrested? And she still had reservations about his trustworthiness at that point. It just didn’t seem that there was enough development there for the relationship to serve as motivation.
  • The stakes in this book didn’t feel high enough. Claire was all freaked out because Markel was going to lose a finger if he didn’t pay his debt on time??? Oh, come on. A fucking finger?! Look, I get that no one wants to lose a finger and I would personally consider that motivation enough if it were my digit on the line. But in a novel? No way. It’s not as though Markel was an artist or a concert pianist or anything. WTF would he care about losing a finger in lieu of a six- or seven-figure debt?
  • The characters in this book were two dimensional at best. They were stereotypes with the tiniest bit of personality added to the mixture: the gay best friend always at the ready with dating/fashion/career advice. The dark, dashing, perfectly dressed art dealer who conveniently has the means to boost Claire’s sagging career. The spiteful old lady with a family secret to hide. Yawn.
  • The stuff about Claire’s volunteer work at the youth center was a huge waste of time. That story line went absolutely nowhere and had ZERO payoff. What was the point??? Just to throw in that tiny scene where Claire (typically) freaked out in the holding cell to “foreshadow” how she would not be able to handle a real prison? Give me a break.
  • The fawning over Degas got to be a bit much by the end of the book, and the descriptions of his work were highly repetitive. How many times did the author use “luminous” or “luminosity” to describe something in a painting?

Rating:

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro has received a lot of positive reviews on Amazon, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why. I found this book to be mostly slow-moving, repetitive, predictable, and unbelievable. Moreover, it was populated by an annoying protagonist and a cliched cast of secondary characters. I give it 2 stars out of 5.

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