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The Forgery of Venus: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, March 10, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Bestseller Gruber (The Book of Air and Shadows) probes the boundaries between sanity and madness in his outstanding sixth novel. Talented Chaz Wilmot, who makes a modest living as a commercial artist in New York City, can't say no when Mark Slade, his former Columbia roommate who now owns a downtown gallery, offers him $150,000 to fix a ruined Tiepolo ceiling in a Venetian palazzo (the ceiling had essentially collapsed, so it wasn't a restoration job exactly but more like a reproducing job). Once abroad, Wilmot gets sucked into an increasingly bizarre world where his own identity is confused and the art he produces may be a forgery but is genuinely magnificent. Is Wilmot crazy or is he being manipulated in a grandiose scheme linked to unrecovered art stolen by the Nazis? Gruber writes passionately and knowledgeably about art and its history—and he writes brilliantly about the shadowy lines that blur reality and unreality. Fans of intelligent, literate thrillers will be well rewarded. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Tantalizing...exhilarating. Retains the power from the first chapter to keep readers desperate for the suspenseful, addictive fix of every succeeding one. FORGERY OF VENUS is a highly intelligent novel that entertains and educates.” (USA Today )

“Ingenious...The author owns his subject matter and packs it with well-researched details, making this...a successful, suspenseful examination of insanity, forgery and reality.” (Chicago Sun-Times )

“(An) imaginative novel of psychological suspense.” (Boston Globe )

“Michael Gruber’s new thriller, THE FORGERY OF VENUS, is as layered as a luminous portrait by an old master. A tour-de-force combination of suspense and characterization, as well as a primer on the world of art and art forgery.” (Seattle Times )

“Gruber writes passionately and knowledgeably about art and its history--and he writes brilliantly about the shadowy lines that blur reality and unreality. Fans of intelligent, literate thrillers will be well rewarded.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review) )

“Irresistible. Fast, Frightening and, as usual, richly imagined.” (Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review) )

“Gruber writes thrillers for smart people. This novel is about art and creativity. That sounds lofty, but Gruber gives it humor and heart. The ensuing drama, involving a forgery believed to be the work of Diego Velazquez, keeps you on your toes.” (Arizona Republic )

“Gruber is on a roll…[a] terrific art-historical thriller…a perfect place to get lost for a few days. Once again, Gruber mines a popular vein and strikes gold.” (Booklist (starred review) )

“Smart and literate. Gruber approaches art with obvious appreciation, and has woven a clever story with plenty of detail.” (Wichita Eagle )

“A quick and sharp romp through the art world. Downright delicious.” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer )

“Gruber writes with a deft hand, creating a fallen hero who is likeable despite his faults.” (Library Journal )

“This is an art lover’s dream. Mystery and obsession are textured with art history in a plot that explores not only the shifting nature of art, but also the complex nature of identity. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel )

“Michael Gruber’s large and growing number of fans won’t be disappointed with his sixth novel, a thriller in the art history vein. He’s woven a tale within a tale within a tale, all filled with marvelous twists and turns that build suspense and heighten the mystery until the satisfying conclusion.” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram )

“This terrific art thriller has history, thieves, insider snippets and a convoluted plot to keep you guessing.” (Toronto Globe and Mail )

“THE FORGERY OF VENUS is the latest in Gruber’s series of amazing books. He has applied his deft touch to everything from Shakespeare to shamanism, yielding a finely drawn portrait of an engrossing world every time.“ (New Orleans Times-Picayune )

“Michael Gruber giv(es) us a finale in which the excitement level is high because we don’t know who, if anyone, to trust. It’s a satisfying conclusion, one that will leave readers debating the morality of Wilmot’s final decision.” (Tampa Tribune )

“Stunning...utterly unique, and breathtakingly original. It’s one of those novels you want to press upon your friends, fully confident that it will not disappoint. It’s a tour de force performance from Gruber, and a novel worthy of considerable attention.” (Edmonton Journal (Canada) )

“Michael Gruber has created a first-rate thriller that throws the reader into the art world, past and present.” (Chronicle Herald, Nova Scotia )

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (March 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006087449X
  • ASIN: B002V1GZRS
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,094,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I was born and raised in New York City, and educated in its public schools. I went to Columbia, earning a BA in English literature.. After college I did editorial work at various small magazines in New York, and then went back to school at City College and got the equivalent of a second BA, in biology. After that I went to the University of Miami and got a masters in marine biology. In 1968-69 I was in the U. S. Army as a medic.

In 1973, I received my Ph.D. in marine sciences, for a study of octopus behavior. Then I was a chef at several Miami restaurants. Then I was a hippie traveling around in a bus and working as a roadie for various rock groups. Then I worked for the county manager of Metropolitan Dade County, as an analyst. Then I was director of planning for the county department of human resources.

I went to Washington DC in 1977, and worked in the Carter White House, Office of Science and Technology Policy. Then I worked in the Environmental Protection Agency as a policy analyst and also as the speechwriter for the Administrator. In 1986, I was promoted to the Senior Executive Service of the U.S., the highest level of the federal civil service. That same year, Robert K. Tanenbaum contacted me and asked me to write a courtroom thriller to be published under his name. I did that, and since then I have also written the first fifteen novels in the popular Butch Karp and Marlene series.

In 1988 I left Washington, D.C. and settled in Seattle, where I worked as a speechwriter and environmental expert for the state land commissioner. I have been a full-time freelance writer since 1990, mostly on the Karp novels, but also doing non-fiction magazine pieces on biology. My first novel under my own name, TROPIC OF NIGHT, was published in 2003 (William Morrow) and a second novel, VALLEY OF BONES, as well as a children's book THE WITCH'S BOY (Harper Collins) came out in 2005. A third thriller for Morrow, NIGHT OF THE JAGUAR is due out in early 2006. I am married, with three grown children and an extremely large dog.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Karen Ornelas on April 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Talented artist Chaz Wilmot is the son of a slightly less talented but popular artist, and is obsessed with the idea of wasting his talent and thus is doing exactly that. In addition to the paltry sums he brings in with commercial work he is a paid participant in the trial of a completely legal but somewhat psychotropic drug hoping to identify the roots of human creativity. With two ex-wives and three children to support -- one of whom is desperately ill -- he desperately needs money and when he's offered a huge sum to recreate a frescoed ceiling in Venice, the offer is just too good to refuse.

What follows is a finely crafted, intricately woven novel of psychological suspense that I found completely absorbing. While at certain stages I felt that I could have used an art history lesson to get full enjoyment out of the book -- and I'm sure that readers with more knowledge of art than I have will reap an extra dimension -- ultimately that was beside the point and I found myself thoroughly enjoying the ride I'd signed on for.

With the only other Michael Gruber novel I've read being The Book of Air and Shadows, I will definitely be checking out more of this author's backlist.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Mark Henderson on May 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The subject is perspective, and as some of the other reviewers have pointed out, the fine line that separates perception and reality. In this instance, we witness one man's perceived descent into madness, and engage in both time travel, and alternative reality. Mr. Gruber is a student of the human experience, and his historical, artistic, scientific and political observations are absolutely delightful to read. Keep a particular eye out for his discussion of the ways in which forged art is used for credit and sold by wealthy gangsters. These descriptive passages remind me of the best writing from Ian Fleming on gold and diamond smuggling as an organized criminal enterprise. Mr. Gruber is a major talent and I recommend this book to you without reservation. This book also perhaps serves as a bit of a jest on the author's part: just as the protagonist Wilmot is drawn into the world of art, painting under someone else's name, so did Mr. Gruber ghost write a series of popular novels, before releasing the wonderful thriller, Tropic of Night, under his own name.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By R. E. Conary VINE VOICE on November 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'm a sucker for novels about art forgery and faked antiques. I've thoroughly enjoyed Jonathan Gash's Lovejoy series and Iain Pears Art History mysteries featuring Jonathan Argyll and the Italian art theft squad. So seeing "The Forgery of Venus" was a no-brainer for picking up, but this book was more than an art scam rip-off; it's a kaleidoscope look inside the "hero's" head that makes this a masterpiece read.

Artist Chaz Wilmot has little regard for modern painting technique: "Anyone can do a figure in oils. If you screw up, you just paint over it, and who cares if the paint is half an inch thick. The thing is to catch the life without trying, without any obvious working." When someone says that he's painting like Velásquez, Chaz agrees. "I can paint like anybody except me." So Chaz takes on the challenge of recreating (not restoring) a Tiepolo fresco so successfully no expert can tell the difference. Then, later, he creates a "lost" Venus by Velásquez, while channeling the dead artist--living within the artist in 17th Century Spain and Italy--until he is so mixed up that "I had no idea who I was."

"There were possibilities, I had those,... I might be Chaz Wilmot, hack artist, forger of a painting now hailed as one of the great works of Velásquez, hiding out from criminals. I might be Chaz Wilmot successful New York painter, now insane and under treatment... Or I might be Diego Velásquez, caught in a nightmare. Or some combination. Or someone else entirely. Or maybe this was hell itself. How would I tell?"

So who is he? Does it matter? The transitions from being Wilmot to being Velásquez are so smooth that it takes the reader a moment to realize which one is speaking.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Robert Busko VINE VOICE on June 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
When Chaz Wilmot attends a party hosted by another Columbia alum, he meets up with a former college roommate and gives him a CD with an incredible story on it. Before he does this he admits to the old friend that the Velazquez they're looking at and admiring is, in fact a fake. Chaz admits that he painted it; in 1650.

So begins a story that becomes so engrossing that the reader is hard pressed to put the book down. Chaz is an artist that can paint in almost any style required. He can duplicate Leonardo, Van Gogh, or any other highly valued artist. His talent though isn't popular today. The art world has basically passed him by. And this is the root of his problem. Chaz is so full of a talent that the world no longer values. As such, Chaz is relegated to doing advertising copy or art for contemporary magazines. Not being that stable in the first place he is driven to drug use and he is, at the beginning The Forgery of Venus, spiraling down to a life he wasn't meant to live.

Enter another college roommate, a successful research MD studying the roots of creativity. Chaz is asked to participate in a clinical study and he agrees. What begins as a benign medical study soon turns into trips into the past that further stretch Chaz' grip on reality. Are they real or imagined? Add to this the chance to go to Italy and recreate a damaged fresco and you have quite a story.

Michael Gruber is a superb writer that spins stories that grab the reader. His reputation as a spinner of tales is well deserved. Coming on the heels of The Book of Air and Shadows, the Forgery of Venus is sure to add to Gruber's reputation.

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