THE ART THIEF by Michael Finkel

One advantage to listening to a book vs reading it is that you can be truly surprised. With reading, your eyes sometimes jump ahead and sort of absorb the words even before you mean them to, which can blunt the impact of shocking words. But with audio, you really have no idea what is coming. That works to the great advantage of the audiobook of The Art Thief by Michael Finkel, non-fiction about prolific (understatement) art thief Stephane Breitweiser. There were several times listening to this book when I audibly gasped – that’s how crazy this story is.

Why I picked it up : I don’t usually read true crime but I had heard great things about The Art Thief so I decided to give it a try.

In the mid 90s, a young man and his girlfriend living in eastern France, touring a small museum, decided to steal a small historic pistol. They got away with it, sparking an obsession with stealing art and artifacts that spanned many years, 7 countries, and hundreds of items valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. There are so many crazy parts of this story: how they got away with so many thefts; the fact they never sold a single stolen item; the collection they stashed in cramped attic room in Breitweiser’s mother’s house. Finkel’s painstaking, exhaustive research leaves no stone unturned, digging into Breitweiser’s childhood and family life to understand the mindset of a man who appreciated art at such a high level that he simply needed to possess it for himself, at all costs – and of the woman who was by his side for almost every one of the thefts.

This is a fascinating, incredible story. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. I don’t want to get into any more details because it is so much fun to experience them fresh.

I highly recommend the audiobook. Narrator Edoardo Ballerini does a great job here – the perfect narrator for a book about an intellectual criminal. Like I said, there were times when I gasped in my car or walking my dog because I found it so hard to believe.

The Art Thief was the 4th (ugh, I know) book of 2024 and satisfies the Big Book Of 2023 category of the 2024 EDIWTB Reading Challenge.