The most recommended art theft books

Who picked these books? Meet our 30 experts.

30 authors created a book list connected to art theft, and here are their favorite art theft books.
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What type of art theft book?


The Heist

By Daniel Silva,

Book cover of The Heist

Bruce F.B. Hall Author Of A Shattered Calm

From the list on characters fighting against perceived wrongs.

Who am I?

At first blush, all of these books are independent of a specific genre; a saga, a fantasy, a political drama, a spy novel, a crime thriller. But they all have one comment element—the little guy against the world. David versus Goliath, as it were. When I progressed from writing about personal interests to writing novels, I knew I wanted to follow the same style in my thriller stories. I've been fortunate to have a life of adventure that allows me to create worlds of high tension that my protagionist must overcome to achieve success. I dare say my first book would fit with my recommendations, as will my second novel which is currently in development.

Bruce's book list on characters fighting against perceived wrongs

Why did Bruce love this book?

The Heist is one in a series of spy novels written by the prolific author, Daniel Silva, featuring the legendary spy Gabriel Allon. Usually, spy novels bore me to tears, but I have now read every book Silva has written. He is the best in his genre and I was captivated by his characters who are thoroughly developed as you work through the series. All of Silva’s books focus on crimes against the Jewish state and the Heist tells the tale of a stolen Carvaggio masterpiece and  Allon’s attempt to retrieve it from a historic criminal element. I couldn’t put it down.

By Daniel Silva,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Heist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Allon is the 21st century Bond' Daily Mail

Gabriel Allon, master art restorer and assassin, returns in a spellbinding new thriller from No.1 bestselling author Daniel Silva. For all fans of Robert Ludlum.

Gabriel Allon - art restorer and legendary spy - is in Venice when he receives an urgent call from the Italian police. The art dealer Justin Isherwood has stumbled upon a chilling murder scene, and is being held as a suspect.

The dead man is a fallen spy with a secret - a trafficker in stolen artwork, sold to a mysterious collector. To save his friend, Gabriel…

Book cover of Contemporary Perspectives on the Detection, Investigation and Prosecution of Art Crime: Australasian, European and North American Perspectives

Gail Levin Author Of Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography

From the list on the fate of the Edward Hopper Estate.

Who am I?

I’m a Distinguished Professor of art history at CUNY and biographer of artists. I grew up in Atlanta, attended college in Boston, and have worked in New York since my twenties. With a new Ph.D. in art history from Rutgers, I began as curator of the Hopper Collection at the Whitney Museum, assigned to produce a definitive catalogue of all Edward Hopper’s authentic art. His papers were missing except for his record books that recorded every time a work left for sale, loan, or gift. I traced each work as it left Hopper’s possession and discovered a massive number of undocumented artworks stolen from the estate, which the Whitney still wants to cover up.

Gail's book list on the fate of the Edward Hopper Estate

Why did Gail love this book?

I really like the discussion of the Metropolitan Museum’s celebrated acquisition of the ancient Greek Eurphronios Krater, which turned out to have been stolen from a tomb and had to be returned to Italy.

We read that even taking less valuable items “damages archaeological heritage, thereby compromising or weakening historical scholarship.”

I appreciate how this also applies to the unrelated minister who got into the Edward Hopper estate and who hid Hopper’s papers—5,000 documents—for 50 years, damaging their context, perhaps destroying some.

I wrote my biography and definitive catalogue of Hopper’s art without access to most of these papers. Now that I have seen most of them, I am relieved that my work retains its value. Fortunately, I found another source that provided many of Jo Hopper’s diaries.

By Duncan Chappell, Saskia Hufnagel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Contemporary Perspectives on the Detection, Investigation and Prosecution of Art Crime as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the world of law enforcement art and antiquity crime has in the past usually assumed a place of low interest and priority. That situation has now slowly begun to change on both the local and international level as criminals, encouraged in part by the record sums now being paid for art treasures, are now seeking to exploit the art market more systematically by means of theft, fraud and looting. In this collection academics and practitioners from Australasia, Europe and North America combine to examine the challenges presented to the criminal justice system by these developments. Best practice methods of…

Book cover of The Duke of Wellington, Kidnapped!: The Incredible True Story of the Art Heist That Shocked a Nation

Noah Charney Author Of The Devil in the Gallery: How Scandal, Shock, and Rivalry Shaped the Art World

From the list on art crime.

Who am I?

Back in 2006, a New York Times Magazine feature article about me announced that I had essentially founded the field of the study of art crime, while still a postgraduate student. I’m often mentioned as the world’s leading authority on the history of art crime and I’ve been a professor teaching the subject for more than a decade (I’m not actually that old). I also founded ARCA, the Association for Research into Crimes against Art, the world’s first think tank and research group on art crime. We launched the first academic journal on the subject, The Journal of Art Crime, as well as the first academic study program, the ARCA Postgraduate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection, which runs every summer in Italy. I’m also the author of more than a dozen books, many best-sellers, and one a Pulitzer finalist. I write on art crime for TED Ed videos, I host TV programs on the subject, and I recently curated a virtual exhibit of lost art called Missing Masterpieces.

Noah's book list on art crime

Why did Noah love this book?

If you saw the recent film, The Duke, then you’ll know the story of Kempton Bunton and the crazy art heist from London’s National Gallery, when Goya’s Portrait of the Duke of Wellington was stolen. This is one of the most interesting and quirkiest of all art heists and this book is the definitive telling of it.

By Alan Hirsch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Duke of Wellington, Kidnapped! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1961, a thief broke into the National Gallery in London and committed the most sensational art heist in British history. He stole the museum’s much prized painting, The Duke of Wellington by Francisco Goya. Despite unprecedented international attention and an unflagging investigation, the case was not solved for four years, and even then, only because the culprit came forward voluntarily.

Kempton Bunton, an elderly gentleman, claimed he executed the theft armed with only a toy gun, a disguise purchased for five shillings, and a getaway car inadvertently provided by a drunkard. Shortly after turning himself in, Bunton also invoked…


By Barnaby Phillips,

Book cover of Loot: Britain and the Benin Bronzes

Marq de Villiers Author Of Timbuktu: The Sahara's Fabled City of Gold

From the list on African cultures.

Who am I?

I was born in Africa and have been infatuated with its history and cultures all my life. Of the 48 countries sharing the African mainland, I have spent time in all but four. True, a few only for a laughably brief stay (I wandered across the Cameroon-Equatorial Guinea border once by mistake, not knowing I had crossed; there was no sign of a border post or any guards. I stayed only for the rest of the day, never leaving the beach, before wading back to Cameroon.) But others I have lived in for years, and have travelled extensively to famous and obscure regions alike, especially in the Sahel

Marq's book list on African cultures

Why did Marq love this book?

This is far more than a colonial era whodunit, a recounting of yet another colonial atrocity – though it is that in spades.  Yes, in 1897 the British occupation army reacted to the killing of a a few colonial officials by razing an empire to the ground, careless of its causes and its effects. So much, so commonplace. But what an empire! The Benin artworks the army looted, subsequently dispersed to museums around the globe, were and still are a revelation to those whose notions of African art were to that point limited to masks and fetishes. A mere catalogue of the pieces would be enough to explain why Picasso, among other artists, was captivated by the art of Africa, but Philips has done more than that – he puts the looted artifacts into their context and into their culture. There is nothing didactic or preachy about this book, but…

By Barnaby Phillips,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Loot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Prospect Best Book of 2021

'A fascinating and timely book.' William Boyd

'Gripping...a must read.' FT

'Compelling...humane, reasonable, and ultimately optimistic.' Evening Standard

'[A] valuable guide to a complex narrative.' The Times

In 1897, Britain sent a punitive expedition to the Kingdom of Benin, in what is today Nigeria, in retaliation for the killing of seven British officials and traders. British soldiers and sailors captured Benin, exiled its king and annexed the territory. They also made off with some of Africa's greatest works of art.

The 'Benin Bronzes' are now amongst the most admired and valuable artworks in the…

Saving Italy

By Robert M. Edsel,

Book cover of Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation's Treasures from the Nazis

Teresa Fava Thomas Author Of The Allied Bombing of Central Italy: The Restoration of the Nile Mosaic and Sanctuary of Fortuna at Palestrina

From Teresa's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Historian Traveler Professor Backpacker

Teresa's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Teresa love this book?

Edsel tells the very dramatic story of how Allied art experts, known as the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) or Monuments Men, raced through Italy to rescue art masterpieces and to secure endangered monuments during the Nazi retreat in 1944. A special focus on the cities of Naples, Rome, Florence, and Pisa’s treasures.

I was especially fascinated by the story of Frederick Hartt, who loved Florentine art and risked his life to reach the city then pursued the lost artworks in a race across Italy into Austria to return them. Many of the artworks the Monuments Men saved are the treasures we see in Italy’s museums today.

By Robert M. Edsel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Saving Italy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Hitler's armies occupied Italy in 1943, they also seized control of mankind's greatest cultural treasures. As they had done throughout Europe, the Nazis could now plunder the masterpieces of the Renaissance, the treasures of the Vatican, and the antiquities of the Roman Empire.

On the eve of the Allied invasion, General Dwight Eisenhower empowered a new kind of soldier to protect these historic riches. In May 1944 two unlikely American heroes-artist Deane Keller and scholar Fred Hartt-embarked from Naples on the treasure hunt of a lifetime, tracking billions of dollars of missing art, including works by Michelangelo, Donatello, Titian,…

Book cover of Death and Restoration

Lyn Farrell Author Of The Blind Switch

From the list on mysteries that carry us to different worlds.

Who am I?

I taught myself to read when I was 4 and have been an omnivorous reader ever since. By the time I was in high school, I was reading the Grand Dame Agatha Christie’s wonderful mysteries. The cozy genre captured me with its deft characterization and clever solutions to “who dunnit.” I wanted to be a writer, received a B.A. and M.A. degree in Literature and later a Ph.D. Once retired from full-time work, I returned to my original desire and as Lia Farrell wrote and published The Mae December Mysteries. Since then, as Lyn Farrell, I have written The Rosedale Investigations series. Together the books have sold 30,000 copies.

Lyn's book list on mysteries that carry us to different worlds

Why did Lyn love this book?

Ian Pears is an erudite art historian who has written prolifically on artistic, historical, and financial topics.

In his series about the fictional Italian Art Squad in Rome, he gives us General Tadeo Bottando who is fighting a losing battle to protect the heritage and art of Italy. He is a military man who expects his subordinates to respect his position and wisdom, but Flavia de Stefano, his second-in-command, is distressingly off-hand in her treatment of the man.

In Death and Restoration, the General has just received a tip about a planned raid of a nearby monastery. It doesn’t make sense, there’s nothing valuable in the monastery’s collection, except for the endearing art thief, called the “Rotweiler of Restoration,” who is restoring the only important piece, a painting by Caravaggio and a tiny dusty icon of a Madonna. She’s called “My Lady” is believed to have protected the church…

By Iain Pears,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death and Restoration as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

General Bottando can't believe his rotten luck. He has just been promoted--to a position that's heavy on bureaucratic duties-but disturbingly light on investigative responsibilities. As if that wasn't annoying enough, he's received a tip about a planned raid at a nearby monastery. He's relying on his colleague Flavia di Stefano and her art-expert fiance, Jonathan Argyll, to thwart the plot-but both are beyond baffled. The only valuable item in the monastery's art collection is a supposed Caravaggio that's currently being restored. There are no solid suspects-unless you count the endearing art thief, the flagrantly flamboyant "Rottweiler of Restoration," and the…

The Art Thief

By Noah Charney,

Book cover of The Art Thief

Cornelia Feye Author Of Spring of Tears

From the list on mysteries with an art theme.

Who am I?

I arrived in New York City from Germany thirty years ago with two suitcases and a typewriter. Since then, I try to combine my background as an art historian – I hold a M.A. in Art History and Anthropology from the University of Tübingen, Germany – with my experiences travelling around the world for seven years, and my love for writing. After a career in museum education (at the San Diego Museum of Art, the Mingei, and the Athenaeum) I founded Konstellation Press, an indie publishing company for genre fiction. The first of my four novels, Spring of Tears, an art mystery set in France, won the San Diego Book Award.

Cornelia's book list on mysteries with an art theme

Why did Cornelia love this book?

The settings of this book are Rome, Paris, and London, three of my favorite European cities. The missing Masterpieces are by Caravaggio and Malevich, two of my favorite painters. The author is the founding director of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA) and holds a degree in art history, so he knows what he is writing about, and the book contains fascinating details art historical details, but also deep insights into the field or art forgery and international art theft. Enough to keep you glued to your seat for hours. 

By Noah Charney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Art Thief as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The disappearance of a priceless Caravaggio in Rome and the famous 'White on White' by Russian painter Kasimir Malevich in Paris heralds the start of a series of seemingly unconnected art crimes across Europe. Fitting the pieces together as they follow a trail of bluffs and double-bluffs, bizarre clues and intellectual puzzles, Inspector Jean-Jacques Bizot in Paris and Harry Wickenden of Scotland Yard come to realize that what at first appears a spate of random thefts is all part of a single master plan, and that they are being led ever deeper into a baffling conspiracy.

This fiendishly clever debut…


By Leonardo Padura, Anna Kushner (translator),

Book cover of Heretics

Stephen Fredman Author Of A Menorah for Athena: Charles Reznikoff and the Jewish Dilemmas of Objectivist Poetry

From the list on blending Jewish history with a personal quest.

Who am I?

As an enthusiastic and eclectic reader, one of my great joys is recommending books to others. I was able to indulge this joy consistently while teaching at a university, introducing students to authors and books and topics they otherwise might never have encountered. I find this same excitement in my own writing, searching for ways to reveal to others the magnificent wealth I find in modern poetry and in the brilliant concepts of poetic thinking.

Stephen's book list on blending Jewish history with a personal quest

Why did Stephen love this book?

The Cuban mystery writer Leonardo Padura offers an amazing presentation of Jewish history and the art of painting as they collide in modern Havana.

He weaves together three stories: the attempted escape from Hitler by Jews aboard a ship that is turned back from the Havana harbor in 1939; the aborted career of an imaginary Jewish disciple of Rembrandt, who defies the biblical prohibition against creating human likenesses; and a contemporary attempt by a Cuban Jew to track down his exterminated family’s Rembrandt masterpiece.

I love how the vastly different worlds of modern Havana and 17th-century Amsterdam embark on a conversation that reveals so much about Jewish history and art.

By Leonardo Padura, Anna Kushner (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Heretics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Padura’s Heretics spans and defies literary categories . . . ingenious." ―Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air

A sweeping novel of art theft, anti-Semitism, contemporary Cuba, and crime from a renowned Cuban author, Heretics is Leonardo Padura's greatest detective work yet.

In 1939, the Saint Louis sails from Hamburg into Havana’s port with hundreds of Jewish refugees seeking asylum from the Nazi regime. From the docks, nine-year-old Daniel Kaminsky watches as the passengers, including his mother, father, and sister, become embroiled in a fiasco of Cuban corruption. But the Kaminskys have a treasure that they hope will save them: a small Rembrandt…

Book cover of The Librarian of Crooked Lane

Nellie H. Steele Author Of Death of a Duchess

From the list on historical fiction with a dash of magic.

Who am I?

I’ve always loved history, whether ancient or “modern.” Past societies and how humanity has changed over the years has always fascinated me. As a young mystery reader, I began with Nancy Drew and then quickly graduated to Victoria Holt. I’m not sure there’s a gothic fiction reader out there who won’t be familiar with that name. The stories are a wonderful blend of mystery, history, and a dash of the supernatural. Decades later, I’d write my fourth series, Duchess of Blackmoore Mysteries, in true gothic Victorian style.

Nellie's book list on historical fiction with a dash of magic

Why did Nellie love this book?

Another entry by C.J. Archer (can you tell I like this author?) and another great blending of genres.  Set in turn of the century England but including the existence of magic, the world-building is sure to immerse you and keep you reading on to the next book. Again, the “mystery” built in is not your typical, which makes the reading all the more intriguing.

By C.J. Archer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Librarian of Crooked Lane as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A librarian with a mysterious past, a war hero with a secret, and the heist of a magic painting. THE LIBRARIAN OF CROOKED LANE is an intriguing new fantasy from C.J. Archer, the USA Today bestselling author of the Glass and Steele series.

Librarian Sylvia Ashe knows nothing about her past, having grown up without a father and a mother who refused to discuss him. When she stumbles upon a diary that suggests she’s descended from magicians, she’s skeptical. After all, magicians are special, and she’s just an ordinary girl who loves books. She seeks the truth from a member…


By Sharon Waxman,

Book cover of Loot: The Battle Over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World

Roger Atwood Author Of Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers, and the Looting of the Ancient World

From the list on the looting of the Ancient World.

Who am I?

I’m a journalist, critic, and poet who has spent a career engaging with the world. I love telling stories, and I strive to put beauty and tension into everything I write. I’ve had great editors – they’ve published my work in The Guardian, National Geographic, ARTnews, The Washington Post, The Times Literary Supplement, and Archaeology, where I am a contributing editor, and many other places – but it always comes down to me and my computer. And often a plane ticket and a suitcase. 

Roger's book list on the looting of the Ancient World

Why did Roger love this book?

The long history of pillage as an act of colonial conquest – Napoleon looting Egypt, Britain looting Greece, among many others – is well-told in this solid, historically grounded account. Why are so many of the world’s great museums filled with treasures from ancient civilizations? This book tells you how it happened, while also showing why countries stripped of their heritage are demanding it back. There are a few books out there entitled Loot: this is the one to read. 

By Sharon Waxman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Loot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For the past two centuries, the West has plundered the treasures of the ancient world to fill its great museums, but in recent years the countries where ancient civilizations originated have begun to push back, taking museums to court, prosecuting curators, and threatening to force the return of these priceless objects. Sharon Waxman brings us inside this high-stakes conflict, from the great cities of the West to Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy, as these countries face down the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum, the British Museum, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. She shows how the actions of a few determined…