The Scream.

THE RESCUE ARTIST: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece

Edward Dolnick, Author . HarperCollins $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-053117-1

The little-known world of art theft is compellingly portrayed in Dolnick's account of the 1994 theft and recovery of Edvard Munch's iconic painting The Scream. The theft was carried out with almost comical ease at Norway's National Gallery in Oslo on the very morning that the Winter Olympics began in that city. Despite the low-tech nature of the crime, the local police were baffled, and Dolnick (Down the Great Unknown ; Madness on the Couch ) makes a convincing case that the fortunate resolution of the investigation was almost exclusively due to the expertise, ingenuity and daring of the "rescue artist" of the title: Charley Hill, a Scotland Yard undercover officer and former Fulbright scholar who has made recovering stolen art treasures his life's work. Hill is a larger-than-life figure who seems lifted from the pages of Elmore Leonard, although his adversaries in this inquiry are fairly pedestrian. While the path to the painting's retrieval is relatively straightforward once some shady characters put the word out that they can get their hands on it, the narrative's frequent detours to other crimes and engaging escapades from Hill's past elevate this work above last year's similar The Irish Game by Matthew Hart. 16 pages of b&w and 8 pages of color photos not seen by PW . Agent, Rafe Sagalyn. (July 1)

Reviewed on: 04/11/2005
Release date: 07/01/2005
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