Finkel follows up his best-selling The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit with the captivating story of Stéphane Breitwieser, the world’s most prolific art thief, who stole paintings and objects from more than 200 museums across Europe over a span of eight years. The value of the stolen items, some difficult to price, is estimated to be $1–$2 billion. Breitwieser says he never stole for money. Instead, he views himself as a collector who takes art only in the daytime, without violence, when a museum is open to the public. From the opening chapter, Finkel’s tight prose heightens the drama of each theft, as Breitwieser and his girlfriend Anne-Catherine Kleinklaus, who serves as his lookout, enter Belgium’s Rubens House amid visitors and guards. Breitwieser leaves with an ivory sculpture of Adam and Eve, which he adds to his secret galley in his mother’s house in France. Finkel also researches Breitwieser’s motivation and insatiable hunger for possessing beautiful things, which makes for a fascinating read.

CORRECTION: This review originally mispelled “Breitwieser”; LJ regrets the error.

VERDICT Finkel will have art history and true crime lovers obsessively turning the pages of this suspenseful, smartly written work until its shocking conclusion.

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