The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece
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The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  1,034 ratings  ·  145 reviews
In the predawn gloom of a February day in 1994, two thieves entered the National Gallery in Oslo. They snatched one of the world's most famous paintings, Edvard Munch's The Scream, and fled with their $72 million trophy. The thieves made sure the world was watching: the Winter Olympics, in Lillehammer, began that same morning. Baffled and humiliated, the Norwegian police c...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 28th 2005 by Harper (first published 2005)
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The Rape of Europa by Lynn H. NicholasThe Rescue Artist by Edward DolnickThe Forger's Spell by Edward DolnickMuseum of the Missing by Simon HouptThe Venus Fixers by Ilaria Dagnini Brey
Art Crime
2nd out of 39 books — 43 voters
Vanished Smile by R.A. ScottiThe Forger's Spell by Edward DolnickThe Rape of Europa by Lynn H. NicholasMuseum of the Missing by Simon HouptThe Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
Art Fraud And Theft
8th out of 108 books — 75 voters


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Community Reviews

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Jan
This is one of the most boring books I've ever read. I was fastinated by the first chapter, describing in detail how the famous painting, "The Scream", was stolen from the National Museum in Norway. I managed to stay with the rest of the book only because I wanted to find out if the painting was recovered, and how. Unfortunately, the author kept backtracking and side stepping, going into incredibly tedious detail about other famous paintings that had been stolen. To save my sanity, I had to fina...more
Jo
Loved this book; the writing was engaging, the stories were great, etc. etc. Content gets 5 stars.

However, the lack of any organization to the story did frustrate me a bit. I am okay with (even fond of) stories that jump all over the place when it serves some aesthetic, quirky, or endearing purpose. This did not. The overarching story is about the theft and recovery of The Scream. Dolnick also includes other anecdotes and adventures of the detective Charley Hill. As a side note, this does read m...more
J.
Jan 16, 2009 J. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: ... old bill and his bent friends ...
Like the Dolnick book on the Vermeer forgeries, this stacks up as a compendium of art-world scam and theft alongside of the central thread, which is about the Munch's Scream theft.

This time out, though, the compendium aspects outweigh the central thread, and by a long shot. The real value of the book is in the asides, the comparisons, the sidebar items. There, the depth of the research really shows, in spite of an overdeveloped appreciation of the main character, (who obviously charmed the auth...more
Megan
I've decided that art theft books are becoming my new thing. Just finished this one up last night. It was really good, though a bit confusing at points because of all the names. Maybe I was reading it too fast.

It's the story of Charley Hill, a Scotland Yard undercover police officer, who recovered Edvard Munch's The Scream after it was stolen off Oslo museum walls in 1994. Dolnick weaves the recovery story through stories of Hill's life as well as stories of other art thefts and recoveries. It's...more
Claire
This was fine. It's a really great introduction to how undercover work functions, and art crimes in particular. I thought that the pacing was great, and the info Dolnick provided about Munch was the perfect amount, but it's very disjointed as a whole. It was hard to figure out Dolnick's view on art theft -- on the one hand he's tut-tutting that the police and courts don't take it seriously and then ten pages later "Ha ha, let me tell you another funny story about a robbery! Isn't this silly?!"

B...more
Phillipa
This book was really quite interesting ... for a true story :) I guess it's something I've never thought about much but I found it quite interesting how low on the priority list getting back stolen paintings actually is. Quite sad really, when you think about the fact that their quite unique and have such historical value. But I guess it's also so easy for them to be damaged and destroyed once stolen. So sad. It's sad that art's uniqueness makes it priceless, which naturally makes it a target fo...more
Caroline
It had a great story, but there was too much language.
Anne
I love true stories that take you behind the scenes into passions outside of your own sphere. This is one of them--a suspenseful read about the audacious theft of one of the world's most famous paintings, Edvard Munch's "The Scream", from the National Gellery in Oslo. This book is about the art world's underground, and about the world's greatest art detective who tracks down the thieves.

"The thief turned to "The Scream"--it hung only a yard from the window--and snipped the wire that held it to...more
Kendra
Have you ever heard of the famous painting The Scream, by Edvard Munch? The book, The Rescue Artist, by Edward Dolnick -- a 240 page mystery -- starts off with the night The Scream is stolen. It's the opening day of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, and the entire world is glued to the television screen. Well, the entire world except for two men, who know this is the perfect chance to steal something. With the help of a ladder, they steal The Scream, worth $72 million dollars, fr...more
Tony
Mar 24, 2009 Tony rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: art
Dolnick, Edward. THE RESCUE ARTIST: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece. (2005). ****. “On a frozen February morning in 1994, two men in a stolen car skidded to a halt in front of Norway’s national art museum. They raced across the snow and grabbed a ladder they had stashed away the night before. Two minutes later, they roared off. Wedged behind the driver sat one of the most valuable paintings in the world: Edvard Munch’s The Scream.” So shouts the cover of this...more
Jerry Peterson
I was at the Getty, last year, in the gift shop, looking for a book on art thefts. I pages through one that I shall not name . . . poorly written . . . so I asked a sales clerk what she recommended. "Oh, you'll like 'The Rescue Artist'," she said.

Right she was.

Edward Dolnick is a superb writer of true crime books. For this one he won the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award for best fact crime in 2006.

The book starts off with the nighttime theft of Edward Munch's painting "Scream" from Norwa...more
Anne
After reading and loving Dolnick's book, The Forger's Spell, last month, I was eager to read his much acclaimed book about art theivery, The Rescue Artist. The book focuses on the 1994 theft of Edvard Munch's ubiquitous painting, The Scream, from the National Gallery in Oslo, Norway. The theft itself seemed relatively amateurish, but nothing compared to the lack of security in the museum. The Scream was housed on the second floor of the museum right next to a window. There were no security camer...more
Tyler
Synopsis: This is the true story of the theft of Edvard Munch's famous painting The Scream from the National Museum in Norway on the same morning that the Winter Olympics were starting in Lillehammer in 1994. The theft was pulled off with disturbing ease as the painting had recently been moved from a room deep within the museum to a position next to an easily accessible second floor window. While the police had no good leads, Scotland Yard offered the use of their art recovery team - most especi...more
Amy
Before reading this book, know that you should take the title literally. It is about Art, Thieves, and missing masterpieces (plural). While the tale revolves around the 1994 theft of Munch's The Scream from the National Gallery in Oslo, the book itself takes many sidelines into the world of art theft and art recovery. Perhaps a third of the book is actually about the Scream theft, with another third devoted to the tale of Detective Charley Hill and the final third talking to or about the crimina...more
Jmaturi
This is a very informative and descriptive book about art and the theft and recovery of the art. It amazed me to read how easy it is and how frequently the art is stolen and how little is done to recover these masterpieces. The author spent quite a bit of time and pages about the protagonist of this book. It felt like reading a biography of Charley Hill return by his biggest fan. Too much description of the hero, no arguments that Hill is a hero.
The author's style of writing improved a lot by...more
R_
Art crime is a hoot! That's not to say it's frivolous. Yes it's serious business. It just seems (based on the books I've read about it) that it's filled with real characters on BOTH sides of the equation. Thieves who are motivated by greed, or notoriety, or politics, or all of these. Cops who are motivated by notoriety, politics, sincere love for art, (probably not greed). I enjoyed the book. One warning though -- & it's a knock on books read via Kindle generally. I've got an older, black&white...more
Grey
I found this book as a remainder item in one of the bookstores around Harvard Square back in January. I've always been interested in art theft: Who is bold enough to take artworks worth millions of dollars and how are these items dealt in the underworld without detection? This book documents the theft in 1994 of Munch's The Scream. While winding the tale of how it happened and the investigation and undercover work to recover it, the book also interweaves tales of other art heists from museums an...more
Kay
I found this something of a disappointment, especially considering how much I'd enjoyed another book I'd read by Dolnick (Down the Great Unknown). The book lost much of its punch through digressions, and the style didn't seem particularly compelling.

I read this prior to going to Norway in 2007, and of course one of the places we went to was Norway's National Gallery, scene of the thefts. (However, for much more Munchian atmosphere, I'd recommend going to the Munch museum instead.)

The most inte...more
Elisha Condie
I picked up this book because my best friend recommended it. This book focuses on the theft of Munch's painting "The Scream" and art theft around the world. Dolnick focuses the book around Charley Hill, a Scotland Yard art squad detective and his career in recovering art. It was really fascinating, and amazing how easy it is to steal artworks. Some paintings have been stolen several times, in fact (from the same place!). I really thought it was interesting, and some of it read like fiction -the...more
Mazola1
The Rescue Artist is the story of an undercover Scotland Yard detective who specializes in the recovery of expensive stolen art, as well as the story of how his unit rescued The Scream, which was stolen from the Norwegian National Gallery in 1994. It is an intriguing look into the world of stolen high priced art, and answers such vexing questions as who would steal art which is so famous it cannot be fenced, and why the police don't put more effort into recovering stolen masterpieces and punishi...more
David Quinn
This is a six or seven page magazine article loaded with filler masquerading as a cohesive book. The prologue and first chapter or two are wonderful, the rest is forgettable and the ending is anticlimactic.

The centerpiece of the book, the rescue artist (Charley Hill), came across as an utter cliche. Hill is the antiauthority, antiestablishment Scotland Yard detective who can discuss obscure intellectual topics with the brightest society members or mix equally well with the underbelly of society....more
Zachary Rawlins
This is some excellent non-fiction, though it is written exactly in the manner of a fictional crime/detective novel. The meta story for the book is the the theft of The Scream, the famous painting, during the Norwegian Olympics. The crime went unsolved for some time, until the tiny Art Crime unit of Scotland Yard got involved.

The book is well organized, with chapters telling the story of the theft and the paintings eventually recovery with chapters describing the collecting of art, art theft, th...more
Carla
This was a book about high stakes thievery. Though the focus of the storyline was the 1994 theft of Munch's The Scream, other episodes of stolen art were woven in so that the reader gained an understanding of the reasons behind stealing high profile artwork (it's not like you can list the Mona Lisa on ebay) and the individuals who steal the art and those working to recover it. Fascinating! I did not like the book as much as I might have because I felt the exposition of the connections between th...more
Stacielynn
read this for bookgroup and was hooked right away - the opening really struck a chord with me. the idea that priceless masterpieces are stolen and then tracked down by dedicated. cops is pure drama. however, the author somehow managed to lose me. the detours into past investigations were clumsy and disruptive. I appreciated his casual detective mystery style but found his structure hard to follow. hill's s tale is pretty compelling. by itself I felt as if dolnick was constantly cautioning. me no...more
Jim
An offbeat tale of larger than life characters which reminded me of a Bill James novel, except that this was true. Incompetent criminals, dangerous thugs, interfering officialdom, naïve rich toffs and policemen operating in the grey fringes of the law in order to deliver the greater good, or the greater goods, back to the public was what this book was about. I’m glad I found it, one of these serendipitous searches of Waterstones that turned up a gem. Not an all time classic like, say, The Bloodi...more
Joshua
Interesting book that details the world of art crime and the cops who attempt to hunt down the stolen art. I had no idea that art theft is a billion dollar industry but it is. Museums don't really insure or keep their facility secure due to budget constraints so it's surprising just how easy it is to steal a painting. Even a very famous painting.

The book mostly follows Scotland Yard art cop Charley Hill as he attempts to get back Munch's "The Scream" from thieves in Norway in 1994. Hill is a vet...more
Nancy
Nov 19, 2009 Nancy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nancy by: NPR
It's hard to believe that this book is non-fiction--the stories are incredible! It’s a testament to the adage that truth is stranger than fiction. I studied Art History at university and so I loved reading about the pieces I devoted so much time and energy to earlier in my life. It was horrendous to hear of thieves slashing paintings out of their frames and heartbreaking to hear of Stéphane Breitwieser’s mom chopping up stolen works of art and putting them down her garbage disposal—that made me...more
Carole
This is about famous artwork that has been stolen and a detective who has specialized in finding and returning it to museums. It's pretty interesting but seems to skip around a lot and is kind of confusing. I really did not enjoy reading this book and it was because the author would start telling about the case the book was supposed to be about which was very interesting and then all at once he'd skip to some aspect of art theft and go off on a completely different tangent. I didn't even finish...more
Jennifer
I expected to like The Rescue Artist more than I did. Drawn in by the opening story, the 1994 theft of Munch's The Scream, I was set for a meandering narrative about the hunt for it and its thieves. However, about half way through the book I began to lose interest in the side stories about detective Charley Hill's past exploits. Since the book was more about Hill than The Scream, I should have set the book aside. Instead I plodded through, genuinely wanting to find out about this particular crim...more
Nikki
A true story about how Scotland Yard recovered a stolen masterpiece and one of the world's most famous paintings, 'The Scream' by Edvard Munch.
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Edward Dolnick is an American writer, formerly a science writer at the Boston Globe. He has been published in the Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times Magazine, and the Washington Post, among other publications. His books include Madness on the Couch : Blaming the Victim in the Heyday of Psychoanalysis (1998) and Down the Great Unknown : John Wesley Powell's 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy T...more
More about Edward Dolnick...
The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century Down the Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell's 1869 Journey of Discovery and Tragedy Through the Grand Canyon Madness on the Couch: Blaming the Victim in the Heyday of Psychoanalysis The Rush: America's Fevered Quest for Fortune, 1848-1853

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