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The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  6,199 ratings  ·  610 reviews
“The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft,” The Gardner Heist by Ulrich Boser is a fascinating account of a brazen and amazing criminal act—a book that could help police and investigators solve the mystery of the 1990 break-in and burglary at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. “A tantalizing whodunit” (Boston Globe) and a “riveting, wonderfully vivid ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 24th 2009 by Smithsonian (first published 2009)
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Apr 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Paula by: Bookclub
How to write a book when nobody got caught!

This was all about a journalist who thought he would find out who really did the Gardner art theft after many professionals were unable to. There really wasn’t enough material for a book. I did walk away, however, with an interest to visit the Gardner Museum in the near future!

What is really sad is the thought that the stolen art work may have been destroyed and / or will never be recovered. Hopefully that isn’t the case.

3 out of 5 Stars
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
I love art and museums and work at one, but my interest in the subject could not make me like this book more. I struggled to finish it. The author made an investigation in which he did discover who probably stole the art into a much longer book than it should have been by explaining many of his false leads and trips down the rabbit hole.
Jan 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I'm the author of this book and thus ill-suited to write a review. That said, I do think the book is a good, engaging read, and reviewers have been agreeing with me.
“Boser has produced a captivating portrait of the world's biggest unsolved art theft,” noted the Wall Street Journal.

“Boser cracks the cold case of the art world’s greatest unsolved mystery,” said Vanity Fair.

And the Boston Globe noted that "In The Gardner Heist, author Ulrich Boser offers a tantalizing whodunit as he embarks on a
Dec 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: not-fiction
Having visited the Gardner a few times last year, this book really appealed to me before I even started it. The theft occurred the weekend before my 21st birthday, when I was a college student. I wish I had paid more attention to it then because it is fascinating. Last year as I stood with my 6 year old looking at the empty frames in the Dutch room, she asked quite innocently why they had been stolen, who took them and why hadn't they been found yet? If we only knew.

This book was a fascinating w
May 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2010
I was really looking forward to reading this, as art heists fascinate me and I'm love with Boston, but it didn't live up to my expectations. It started off excellent, but soon became boring and a little strange. It starts by discussing the heist but quickly turns into an account of the author trying to solve this unsolved crime. While some of the events are interesting, most are just accounts of interviews the author conducted that don't really lead anywhere or accounts of the author's random tr ...more
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
May 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Isabella Stewart Gardner was a wealthy Bostonian who spent liberally on priceless works of art. Eventually she built a museum to house them and it opened in 1904.

In 1990 two men dressed as policemen demanded to be let into the Isabelle Stewart Gardner museum. Against instructions, the security guard let the policemen in. The men lured the young man away from the panic button that would have notified police and called the other guard down. They then hog-tied the two of them with duct taped and ha
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ughhh I cannot tell you if most people would like this book but I loved it so much I was rereading every chapter as I went, just to experience it twice. I love Boser's way of romanticizing everything. I loved the character painted of Isabella Stewart Gardner. I loved the way he characterizes suspects, informants, and everyone else who comes up in the book. I love the way he makes it feel like the heist happened yesterday. There is literally nothing I don't love about this book.

Also, fun fact, th
Jan 29, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: art-crime
I have been marking this book up as I read it due to the plethora of inaccuracies, bad writing and dumb things the author did while he was "on the case"! Examples: 1) saying that the thieves were a mere 100 feet away from Titian's Europa when they were stealing the Degas sketches and the finial. The Degas sketches and finial were on the second floor, Europa is on the third, so yeah, 100 feet away through the floor! 2)A ranch style house is a "ranch house", not a "rancher"! 3) Boser drove aimless ...more
Rebecca McPhedran
This is the story of one of the worlds largest unsolved art theft. The Isabella Stuart Gardner museum was broken into on St. Patrick's day in 1990. To this day, the art has never been recovered and no one has been formally charged with the theft. Paintings worth millions of dollars were stolen that night, and it's like they disappeared.
Ulrich Boser is obsessed, like many before him, with finding the paintings. A long list of Boston underworld kingpins are implicated, but none are charged. Boser
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
I knew nothing about the Gardner Heist before reading this book, but I enjoyed the narrative Boser wove.
Pamela  (Here to Read Books and Chew Gum)
There are some interesting moments here, but it focuses too much on the things that didn't happen, rather the things that did. I'm fascinated by art history, and art theft especially, but this was a little too tangential, with some pretty vague claims. ...more
Isabelle Leo
So, we learned nothing, but you know. That's life. ...more
Mar 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed the book. I read everything I can about art heists, and as many people know, the Gardner one was one of the largest and most devastating in many years. I think I settled on 4 rather than 5 stars for two little reasons. First, I was intrigued by the author's confession to having become a little obsessed with the case, and among people who study it, that is entirely fair. So it seemed fitting that there would be more narrative about the unfolding of his obsession. Not that I wanted ...more
Several iconic paintings were stolen from the Gardner Museum in 1990 and they've never been recovered nor the perpetrators caught. At least they were not caught for this crime. I still can't quite get past the thieves cutting the paintings from their frames! Dang it if you're gonna heist something beautiful at least treat it with respect. I'd always assumed art was well protected and that when it was stolen it was stolen for or by someone who craved and treasured it. Boser says this is not true. ...more
Aug 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Taking a painting is theft; recovering that painting is another story. It is theatre. On St. Patrick's Day night in 1990, two robbers stole famous, priceless works of art from the Gardner Museum in Boston. The author is a journalist; Harold Smith, the independent fine arts claims adjuster (aka art detective) he interviewed was unsucessful in the recovery of stolen art if you look at the number (15%) but then all other art detective's success rates is only 5%. The vast number of unrecovered stole ...more
Jun 09, 2009 rated it liked it
Simply for reading interest--I'd give it four stars--it's a fascinating story of stolen art, the seedy Boston underworld, lovely museums with lousy security systems, a sweet art detective, Isabella Stewart Gardner, Vermeer, and Rembrandt. Boser generally tells the story well despite the fact that it's difficult to keep track of all the potential thieves (Boston gangsters, shady lawyers, and art dealers) but the reason why I finally gave it three stars rather than four was for the sometimes distr ...more
Aug 05, 2012 rated it liked it
I'm pretty much the prime audience for this book: from Boston, in love with the Gardner, and very interested in Boston's organised crime scene. I really enjoyed all the different angles the author pursued and explained, but thought the end of the book fell flat for three reasons:
1. He goes to Ireland to find Whitey Bulger. Seriously? I actually laughed out loud at that.
2. The imagined conversation with interviewee 'G' that controls the art (or at least, is connected to people that do) was tediou
Gail Klein
This is true story of the largest art theft in history at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in March of 1990. They stole dozens of masterpieces worth as much as $500 million. After thousands of leads and a reward of $50 million, the case remains unsolved and the art unreturned to their empty frames hanging on the walls.

After the death of renowned art detective, Harold Smith, the author takes over the case. Following many of Smith's unfinished leads, Ulrich Boser becomes obsessed with
Jan 03, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a fascinating account of the famed art theft which took place at the Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990. Boser, a journalist, offers a thorough examination of the insurance inspectors, the suspects, the Boston underworld, and the IRA connection. Consumed by the mystery and desire to return the works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Degas to the museum, Boser explores all avenues and offers feasible explanations, but with no positive results. This book certainly opened my eyes to the sordidness a ...more
This is the story of a man who was fascianted by the robbery at the Gardner museum and his almost obsessive pursuit of leads trying to solve the crime and get the art back. He details all sorts of leads and lies, and basically never solves the crime. Hopefully the art is still out there and will turn up someday.

I found the book a bit slow and meandering at times
Jul 20, 2009 rated it liked it
After visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum with my daughters, I decided that I wanted to read Ulrich Boser's book entitled "The Gardner Heist". Interesting read. Sure hope they solve this heist soon. Looks like they know who pulled the heist, but not where the art can be found. ...more
Jun 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reads-of-09
I've been to the Gardner museum, I've seen the empty frames, but they will never appear as just empty frames of cloth to me again after reading this non-fiction tale of the most famous art crime.

To me, the most shocking part was when the investigator's nose fell off. (Skin cancer is a horrible thing. And if you ever have to have your nose removed, don't order the soup. It will loosen the glue on your artificial nose.)

My favorite part was learning that Isabella Stewart Gardner once caused a scandal by wearing a headband with OH YOU RED SOX printed on it while attending the symphony. It was interesting learning more about her and her life.

I knew the author wouldn't solve the case—the word
Irene O'Hare
Oct 17, 2018 rated it liked it
I read this because I've always been fascinated by Isabella Stewart Gardner and the museum she founded and I wanted to learn more about the heist. It was a interesting book with a lot of detail. It got a bit dry and confusing at times but that's make sense for such a convoluted case. Overall, I think Boser did a good job and he managed to peak my interest in Harold Smith, the art insurance adjuster / detective. A biography of him or a book of his case files sounds fascinating. The book is a litt ...more
Jan 05, 2021 rated it liked it
This book is worth the read if only for the abundance of insights into the facts surrounding the heist. It is slightly anti-climactic that the heist is never solved, but you know that before you begin so its not a terrible disappointment. Boser is an engaging writer and does a very good job of walking the reader through a great deal of complexities, although I did find his daydreams of G and visions of the paintings at the end to be written in a transparent effort to tie up loose ends that could ...more
Jan 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a quick, fascinating read about the infamous heist of the Garner Museum in Boston. I visited once and saw the empty frames and have always been intrigued to learn more about the art and the investigation. This book detailed just that! I learned a lot about art heists in general too.... I never knew the Mona Lisa had been stolen and had no idea that art thefts happen so frequently. Read this book if you have any interest in crime, art or Boston mobster history!
Mar 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: art-book-club
Read for the Columbus Library Art Book Club!

-Interesting and well researched, definitely did a good job of giving some insight into the Gardner museum as an institution and the heist's myriad threads.

--it is *definitely* an older book with the publication date of 2009; a lot has happened since and I was super grateful to have WBUR's Last Seen podcast as supplemental material.

Sandi Banks
Jun 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
I love art especially Vermeer and Rembrandt. I never visited the Isabella Gardner Museum , but I have been fascinated and saddened by the theft of 13 works of art
Boser gave a thorough account of his search for answers of this unsolved case. Many suspects are dead are were dead ends. The book got bogged down in some parts with Boser’s search.
I appreciated his tenacity and hope someday the art treasures are returned.
Oct 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Still unsolved. Still one of the largest art heists in history. Still confounding. Didn’t realize the publication date until too late. Reference to living Osama Bin Ladin, Whitey Bulger, Ted Kennedy, etc. we’re a bit distracting.
Satrina T
I started this book just one day before my world got turned upside down so... review to come later.

Read as part of Book Riot's 2019 Read Harder Challenge Task 19 - A book of nonviolent true crime
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