cover image The Collector’s Apprentice

The Collector’s Apprentice

B.A. Shapiro. Algonquin, $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-61620-358-0

Shapiro (The Muralist and The Art Forger) delivers a clever and complex tale of art fraud, theft, scandal, murder, and revenge. Nineteen-year-old Paulien Mertens is alone and on the run in Paris in 1922, disowned by her Belgian family and hunted by the police, falsely accused of participating with George, her con artist fiancé, in a financial scam that ruined her father. She creates a new identity as art expert Vivienne Gregsby, landing a job working for wealthy Philadelphia art collector Edwin Bradley as a translator and secretary for his buying trips. In Paris, she becomes friends with Gertrude Stein and with Henri Matisse’s lover. All the while, she vows to prove her innocence and restore her father’s wealth, which she plans to do by obtaining possession of Bradley’s art collection, either by marrying him, becoming his heir, or staging a robbery. Vivienne has learned much about the art of the con from George, but when Bradley is suddenly murdered, derailing Vivienne’s plans and landing her in jail, she’ll need all her skills to set things right. Shapiro’s portrayal of the 1920s art scene in Paris and Philadelphia is vibrant, and is populated by figures like Alice B. Toklas and Thornton Wilder; readers will be swept away by this thoroughly rewarding novel. (Oct.)