Rating: 3.5 / 5
For the past few years, Claire Roth has been blacklisted in the arts community. Considering that she claimed famed painter Isaac Cullion’s masterpiece 4D was actually painted by her own hand, and has been blamed for his subsequent death, this is not surprising. Since then, she has been struggling to make ends meet, not giving up on painting as a career, but also slowly growing more pessimistic that she will get the accolades and recognition her talent really deserves. However, all that changes one day when renowned Markel G gallery owner, Aiden Markel, offers her a gallery showing of her own. The only thing she needs to do for him, in exchange, is forge ‘After the Bath’, a painting which was stolen during the infamous 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner museum heist. Markel has promised that the forgery she will paint will be sold to an unsuspecting collector, and later, the original will be anonymously returned to the Gardner museum. Things quickly spiral downhill, however, when Claire realizes that the painting Markel has given her is not actually the original.
While I liked Claire’s voice, I can’t say that I liked her personality. She has an abundance of talent and is smart, but has made some poor decisions in the past. At her age, and having gone through her experiences, I would have thought she’d be smarter the second time around.
Shapiro’s knowledge of the art world is readily apparent. I liked learning about the struggling artist, art forgers, museum curators, and art dealers. It’s not an area I am familiar with, and Shapiro does a great job of being informative without sounding like a textbook or lecture. I also learned a lot about the classic painting technique, and knowing now how many layers go into a painting and the time needed to complete a painting makes me appreciate art just a little bit more.
The Art Forger isn’t predictable, and the mystery aspect is thrilling. However, Claire’s character didn’t sit well with me. She needed more depth, and a maturity to match her experiences. Also, I’m not sure what the subplot around her volunteering at the detention facility was supposed to accomplish. It gave her a little more heart, but after the incident that happened, I thought it was a bit foolish of her to want to go back immediately. Again, it was another point to her immaturity, or ability to think things through. On the other hand, I did like the letters from Isabella Stewart Gardner to her niece, Amelia. It gave a great backstory into the disappearance of the painting, which I found more fascinating than Claire’s journey.
It was a quick and enjoyable read, but I think I am in the minority and one of the few people that rated it below 4 stars.