Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art
By Joshua Knelman
Four To-Be-Read Piles =
Totally Worthy of Your To-Be-Read Pile!
Reviewer: Liz Merton
During a trip to Boise a few years ago, I wandered into the very cool Rediscovered Books and wandered out with Joshua Knelman’s Hot Art. Released by Tin House in 2012, the book explores the world of high-stakes (and lesser) art thievery, reads like a thinker’s thriller, and takes its audience sleuthing through Southern Cal, the U.K., Canada, and beyond to learn the ins and outs of art theft and art-theft investigation from brigands (well, okay, not quite brigands) and the law officers who hunt them.
While critics have pointed out that Knelman didn’t cover some major incidents or detail some of the concerns surrounding wartime plunder (and some have pointed to inaccuracies in the book or complained about “research holes”), I simply cannot say the book comes up short. Knelman keeps it snappy, relevant, and entertaining, while giving his readers a feel for a world where bandits can nab the The Scream and a smash-and-grab at an antique store can mean so much more.
Sure, it’s been more than a couple years since Knelman put together his research, but much (though not all) of the work seems to remain germane in some fashion. (Regarding dates: I hate putting “shelf lives” on books. A good read is a good read, even if it focuses on a discrete period. I enjoyed Hot Art a few years ago, and I wanted to mention it here.) Ultimately, Knelman doesn’t seem to have sought to create an art-theft compendium or treatise. What he gives us in Hot Art is a light look at an interesting world/subculture. In that, he succeeds. So if you’ll take a little nonfiction with your crime drama, and if Camino Island left you disgruntled (I haven’t been back to Grisham since), and you’re good with swapping in Monets for manuscripts, give Hot Art a try.