Book Buzz: The Art Thief

The Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession by Michael Finkel

Stéphane Breitwieser’s crimes seem almost unfathomable. In the span of 6 years, from 1995 to 2001, the French thief and his girlfriend stole more than 200 paintings, sculptures, and priceless objects from museums across Europe. They committed their crimes in broad daylight, swiping artworks from small collections, sometimes with guards and cameras present. What’s more incredible is Breitwieser’s motive: not financial gain or notoriety, but a mania for surrounding himself with remarkable beauty. As a collector, Breitwieser stashed his plunder in his attic apartment, building a gilt-lined refuge filled to bursting with nearly $2 billion worth of treasure. It’s hard to believe The Art Thief is not the work of a novelist’s imagination, but every bit is backed in research and interviews with Breitwieser himself. Author Michael Finkel spins this incredible true story into a compulsive page-turner; readers will be astonished both at the thief’s brazenness and just how long he escaped detection.

Reviewed by Mary Kinser, collection development librarian, Whatcom County Library System

(Originally published in Bellingham Alive October 2023 issue.)