Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book review "The Art Forger" by Phil Baker

Manipulating time and using the first person narrative, B. A. Shapiro has made this very smart novel a clutching story from the outset. “The Art Forger”, 360 pages, published by Algonquin in 2012, is a well written mystery vibrating with the tension created when forgery collides with the legitimate world of art. The setting is the art scene of Boston, twenty-one years after the infamous Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist of 1990.

Clair Roth is a talented artist who is struggling to make a living let alone a career out of creating her original work. Three years before the current narration, Clair’s obvious talent and consuming affair with a professor had led to trouble. When the professor was in a creative void she made a painting for him to display as one of his own in a major show. The notoriety and fame he gained on the back of her work led to a nasty predicament for the lovers that did not end well. In the present storyline, she finds herself in an analogous situation with even more at stake. This time her lover is Aiden Markel who is an influential art dealer with an underhanded scheme up his sleeve. This promises trouble for our charming, but decision-challenged heroine.
With a talent for story-telling and a vast knowledge of the chemistry and mechanics of painting, Shapiro weaves a clever mystery with romance and intrigue and asks challenging thematic questions all the while. What is collecting art all about anyway? Does the collector acquire paintings for the name of the artist or for the beauty, meaning and importance of the art? To what extremes will the collector go to own art? To what depths will the artist condescend to acquire wealth and fame? The examination of these questions gives this story greater texture and bulk than a simple mystery.

Clair learns that good, honest work can lead to success; but above all she must do the work to satisfy herself, not for the indulgence and approval of others. This is a book with a message and above all a fun engaging storyline.

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