Elkins delivers us a two for one delightful trip into the complex world of fine art buying, selling and exhibiting. The first part of the trip is a well done “who done it” concerning the theft of two priceless paintings. The second part is a primer on the intricacies of dealing with art; its valuations, its insiders that make livings off it and why some paintings are worth fortunes and others almost nothing.
Art curator Val Caruso is an assistant to the head curator at the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He has reached a triple whammy in his life. He has been passed over for promotion, his divorce from his wife has just been finalized, and he feels in a rut in general. A group of paintings in Italy have been offered for exhibit at museums around the United States and Val is chosen to travel to Milan on behalf of all the prospective exhibitors to coordinate necessary details and requirements to bring the works to the America. The trip might be made to order for him to temporarily get out of Dodge.
Before leaving on the trip he is asked while in Italy if he would attempt to obtain a pair of Renoir paintings from their owner in Milan and restore them to a man whose family had them stolen by Italian Fascists at the end of World War II. The art work is early Renoir and not listed in catalogs delineating the artist’s later paintings. This fact alone makes them extremely valuable. Val understands that the legalities surrounding art stolen and than resold to legitimate buyers is fuzzy in the extreme, but does promise to see if the present owner will consent to lend the two paintings to Sol Bezzecca the last living descendant of the family that originally owned them. Apparently this is an action that might satisfy all concerned with the paintings restored upon the death of Bezzecca to the owner.
Arriving in Milan Val finds himself involved with the present day remnants of a plot beginning decades ago involving forgers, thieves and an unknown someone that wants him out of the way due to his art expertise. Val had lived in Milan years ago to work with and learn the trade of art dealing and still has friends there that he can call upon for help.
The novel is a well done story set within the technical confines of the movement of fine art from sellers to buyers. Elkins gives the reader all the information necessary to understand the intricacies of fine art buying and selling without too much redundancy to spoil the read. I found myself in a welcome learning experience while enjoying a very good novel.
8/18 Paul Lane
A LONG TIME COMING by Aaron Elkins. Thomas & Mercer (August 7, 2018). ISBN 978-1503902381. 268p.