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February 9, 2023

I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day. So this year, instead of celebrating all that is schmoopy, I want to look at something a little more exciting. I enjoy a good heist movie, and if it involves art, more’s the better. These are some of my favorite recent reads on theft and forgery. Valentine’s Day, Schmalentine’s Day. Just please don’t steal my…art?

I love when you start reading a book and you think it’s one thing, but then it flips and becomes something completely different. I’ve never read anything by Chen, so I didn’t know what to expect. Basic premise: Ava Wong is a rule follower, but when her old college roommate tempts her with a money-making opportunity, she can’t resist. It’s just smuggling a couple of hand bags, right? But then things take a turn for the worst. One time I read a book called Bringing Home the Birkin, so of course now I’m an expert on hand bags. (I’m so not.) Initially it sounded like a criminal version of Crazy Rich Asians, but it was so much more. Highly recommend.

Mr. Barelli spent decades as the head of security for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. As such, he had to deal with various incidents - some international - where items from his museum went missing. One time he was able to find some missing Degas sculptures in a storage room. Other times, the items in question, like a baseball card or ancient jewelry remain lost. I thought this was a good companion to the other books. Those are about the people doing the forgery/theft. This one is about the guy who tries to stop that. It was shocking to me how few of these crimes are solved (around 10%), and their sentences are usually small. Hmmm…maybe I have chosen the wrong career. (Just kidding...probably.)

Wow, this one was good. I checked out the audio version of it and didn’t want to stop once I started listening. Basic premise: Harvard Art History student Will gets an opportunity to return some stolen art from China. Together with his crew of friends, they set out to correct a past wrong. This was an exciting read. Think Ocean’s Eleven meets White Collar, with just a hint of The Fast and the Furious. I wanted everything to work out for the crew, but I figured it couldn’t. I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil this, but I didn’t want this one to end. If you need an audio book to keep you entertained while walking or driving in traffic, this is an excellent choice.

If you haven't figured out by now, I am absolutely fascinated with art forgers. The level of skill and patience and attention to detail they possess is insane. In his recent memoir, convicted forger Tetro made it seem like most of the art sold is actually fake. He focused on more modern artists like Chagall and Dali and according to him, there’s a good chance that his work is still in circulation. While I think it would be fun to copy famous masters, I know I’d have to put my own spin on it, which would totally defeat the point. I can’t say that I’d want to be friends with Tetro - he was too much of a wild and crazy guy for me. But this was an interesting memoir. If you’re into it, I recommend the audio version because Tetro himself reads parts of it.

So celebrate that heart holiday if you must, but make sure you steal a little space in your schedule to enjoy one of these captivating stories.

Happy heisting…
:) Amanda

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Amanda is a classically-trained pianist who loves to read. Like any good librarian, she also has two cats named after Italian cities. Amanda spends her free time sitting in Nashville traffic, baking, and running the Interlibrary Loan office at the Nashville Public Library.