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The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft Paperback – March 16, 2010


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, thieves posing as cops entered Bostons Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and left with a haul unrivaled in the art world, including three Rembrandts and a Vermeer, valued today at $600 million. Boser, a contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report, turned amateur sleuth after the death of a legendary independent fine arts claims adjuster, Harold Smith, who was haunted by the Gardner robbery. Boser carried on Smiths work, pursuing leads as varied as James Whitey Bulgers Boston mob and the IRA. Along the way, he visited felons—including the notorious art thief Myles Connor—and Bob Wittman, the FBIs only art theft undercover agent. Bosers rousing account of his years spent collecting clues large and small is entertaining enough to make readers almost forget that, after 18 years, the paintings have still not been found: the museum is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to their return. Photos. (Mar.)
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.

Review

“Boser has produced a captivating portrait of the world’s biggest unsolved art theft.” (Wall Street Journal)

“A vivid portrait of the high-stakes world of art crime.” (Associated Press)

“Ulrich Boser presents his solution to the [Gardner] mystery.” (Washington Post)

“Boser cracks the cold case of the art world’s greatest unsolved mystery.” (Vanity Fair)

“In The Gardner Heist, author Ulrich Boser offers a tantalizing whodunit as he embarks on an exhaustive search for the stolen masterpieces.” (Boston Globe)

“The book is a thrill.” (The Guardian)

“Now we read this. It looks like the largest theft since the Devil Rays took what should have been the Red Sox’s 2008 American League championship. I don’t know if those paintings ended up on eBay, but I do know they’re not onmy walls.” (Senator John Kerry)

“Boser’s rousing account of his years spent collecting clues large and smallis entertaining enough to make readers almost forget that, after 18 years,the paintings have still not been found.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Boser poetically contrasts the burning, almost unnatural desire art loversfeel for paintings with the cold reality that art theft is one of the easiestand most lucrative types of crime.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Artfully done... Grade: A Minus.” (Boston Herald)

“Boser’s book on it has the feel of a speedy ride down a mountain road spiked with hairpin turns. (Christian Science Monitor)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (March 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061451843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061451843
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress and write about social issues. I just finished a book about social trust called The Leap: The Science of Trust and Why it Matters. I'm currently working on a book on learning.

Before the Center, I was a contributing editor for U.S. News & World Report. My work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. In February 2009, HarperCollins published my book The Gardner Heist, which examines the 1990 theft of a dozen masterpieces from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

I can be reached at ulrich @ ulrichboser.com.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

95 of 104 people found the following review helpful By KFM on July 8, 2012
Format: Paperback
Let me begin by being upfront and saying that I've been a private investigator in Boston for over twenty years and that I did work, albeit briefly, on the Gardner Museum theft back in the early 90's. I also know many other individuals involved in one way or another in the theft, some of whom are mentioned in this book. So when I saw this work I was very eager to read it, halfway through it I was struggling just to finish it.

To begin with, the book is very poorly written, the authors narrative often wanders off track, or goes in circles, or just drops one thing to move on to another without explanation. There's no ryme or reason to where he's taking the reader. And he spends more time waxing poetic about what the missing paintings mean to him, how enthralled he's become with them, then relaying any kind of useful information to the reader. His chapter concerning his imagined converstation with the thief should he ever find him was absurd. Mr. Boser has apparently been deeply effected by the loss of these paintings, that's great, he's a sensitive guy, but I really don't care. I didn't buy the book to hear about his yearning to see a lost Rembrandt, or his fantasy conversations with an imaginary thief.

Additionally, some of the things he writes not only aren't informative at all, they simply don't make sense. In talking about Ms. Gardner's concern over her collection and it's safety he writes on page 54 of the paperback edition;

"It makes it easy to see why some observers suggest that if she (Gardner) had lived another few decades after her death in July 1924, she might have prevented the heist of her beloved masterpieces---or at least have recovered them by now"

What? I'm no math wiz but by my caclulation if Ms.
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57 of 64 people found the following review helpful By John David Mcdowell on February 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's hard to put this book down. Through a bit of serendipity, Ulrich Boser inherited a famed art detective's files on the Gardner Heist. He plunged into this mysterious case, and brings us along for the ride as he explores not only what happened, but why the artwork meant so much to so many both before and after the heist. As the author treads ever closer to cracking the case, you remember that this isn't fiction and start to believe he might get the paintings back - but you also wonder if he might find trouble in this shady underworld. A fascinating read.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By K. M. VINE VOICE on March 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Ulrich Boser's The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft combines several fascinating stories. It re-tells, virtually minute by minute, what is known of how this infamous 1990 art theft was staged. It relates a brief history of the museum's namesake, founder and benefactor, Isabella Gardner. It discusses the paintings that were ripped from the walls and their frames, including Vermeer's The Concert, Rembrandt's The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, and Manet's Chez Tortoni (the photo section provides pictures of them). It examines the security in the museum then and now. It introduces us, through interviews with Boser, to Harold Smith, the most successful art detective of his day. It kicks around the leads and theories that the FBI, police, and private investigators have followed up in the years since the heist. It looks into the lives of some of the men who've been suspected of and investigated for the actual robbery and others who might have the paintings now. The suspects include several vicious members of the underworld, one of whom is currently serving forty years in prison for an unrelated crime, and another who has blotted the FBI's Most Wanted list for years.

The author explains how, after Smith's death (due to illness, not foul play), he, Boser, got caught up in trying to solve the mystery of the paintings and how they might be recovered. Smith had been devoting huge amounts of time to the case; his was a mission bordering on obsession. And he wasn't alone in the hunt. A five million dollar reward lured some, but for others the love of art kept them searching.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By P. Kalafarski on June 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a very good, well researched book about the story behind this theft. I don't live far from Boston and have visited the museum twice, once before the theft and once afterward. Everything you'd want to know about this topic is here - a brief history of Isabella Stewart Gardner, discussions about the background of each missing piece, details of the actual robbery, the on-going investigation. The crime hasn't been solved, so of course it's not going to have a happy ending and it's going to end abruptly. The only thing I didn't like was the endless speculation, and ensuing chapters dedicated to it, that the theft has ties to organized crime. But it does - it's no one's fault that the book lost my interest there. I emailed the author a question I had, and he kindly and pleasantly wrote me back shortly thereafter. For anyone interested in this genre, the book Museum of the Missing deals with stolen art, worldwide and throughout history - very good to read after you finish this.
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