cover image Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession

Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession

Michael Finkel. Knopf, $28 (240p) ISBN 978-0-525-65732-3

In this masterful true crime account, Finkel (The Stranger in the Woods) traces the fascinating exploits of Stéphane Breitwieser, a French art thief who stole more than 200 artworks from across Europe between 1995 and 2001, turning his mother’s attic into a glittering trove of oil paintings, silver vessels, and antique weaponry. Mining extensive interviews with Breitwieser himself, and several with those who detected and prosecuted him, Finkel meticulously restages the crimes, describing the castles and museums that attracted Breitwieser and Anne-Catherine Kleinklaus, his accomplice and romantic partner; the luminous oils and sculptures that caught Breitwieser’s eye; and the swift, methodical actions he took to liberate his prizes. According to Breitwieser, his sole motive was aesthetic: to possess great beauty, to “gorge on it.” Drawing on art theory and Breitwieser’s psychology reports, Finkel speculates on his subject’s addiction to beauty and on Anne-Catherine’s acquiescence to the crimes. The account is at its best when it revels in the audacity of the escapades, including feats of misdirection in broad daylight, and the slow, inexorable pace of the law. It’s a riveting ride. (June)