Edward Dolnick's The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece is a romp of a read: it's as fast-paced as the best suspense thriller, with vividly drawn characters and a lively lick of humor throughout. Starring the brilliant and irascible Scotland Yard art detective Charley Hill, this astonishing true-crime story details his daring rescue of Edvard Munch's The Scream after it was stolen from Norway's National Art Museum in Oslo in 1994. Even more amazing than its recovery, however, was the appalling ease with which the deed was done: all it took was two clumsy men, a ladder, a hammer and a pair of wire snips.
Forget the flash and glam of The Thomas Crown Affair. Former Boston Globe journalist Dolnick, through the voice of the hard-boiled but erudite Hill, sets the world straight about the real-life thugs and loonies that people the world of big-time art crime, their motivations for high-class thievery and the almost comical lack of security measures in the world's finest art museums and private collections.
In riveting style, Dolnick tells the primary tale, the theft of The Scream, in increments, interpolating the rising action with other escapades from Charley Hill's real-life dossier. An additional bonus is a peek into the tortured life of artist Edvard Munch, a haunted man who wrote of his art, "[It] is rooted in a single reflection: Why am I not as others are? Why was there a curse on my cradle?"