Exhilarating ... [A] meticulously detailed, page-turning account ... Finkel’s narrative interweaves gripping descriptions of Breitweiser’s in-plain-sight thefts armed with nothing more than stealth and a Swiss Army knife, a concise history of global art theft, and psychologists’ musings on Breitwieser’s unconscious motivations.
Thrilling ... This ultra-lucrative, odds-defying crime streak is wonderfully narrated by Finkel, in a tale whose trajectory is less rise and fall than crazy and crazier. Only briefly does his book lag, in its discussions of the alleged science of our attraction to art ... Over all, The Art Thief, like its title character, has confidence, élan, and a great sense of timing. It is propelled by suspense and surprises, and it is neither ashamed of nor stingy with the fundamental emotional payoffs of the heist—the disbelieving No way!, the unabashed glee at the deft accomplishment of the seemingly impossible and definitely illegal. Nor does it hesitate, when the time comes, to bring down the boom.
Captivating ... Snackable ... But while the book is, as the subtitle says, a story of crime, it’s also, on a quieter level, an exploration of archiving and ownership ... Finkel, through meticulous research and extensive investigation of trial and interview transcripts, does nudge us to consider: What is the best way to preserve the past? ... 38 breezy chapters ... The last third of the book — which charts the months after Breitwieser’s arrest, when the authorities attempted to figure out what happened to the stolen artwork — is particularly enthralling. In animated and colorful prose, Finkel summons the emotional intensity of a murder mystery.
There are no traces of Finkel until the end, where he details his reporting. His colorful presence is missed. That doesn't mean The Art Thief is any less engrossing ... Finkel controls the pace effortlessly, broadening and narrowing focus from the day-to-day of the thieves to the intricate plotting of their thefts and a history of art crime, as well as who steals and why. That combined with mounting dread for the artworks' fate makes for a heart-pounding read.
Despite this book’s slim size, Finkel’s efforts to fill its pages eventually strain, padding them with generic musings on why people make art ... His reliance on tropes gives the book a paint-by-numbers feel ... By the end, we’re left with signs that what we’ve been offered is only a rough sketch, not the more complicated truth ... He renders every complication and contradiction in broad strokes, rushing ahead to a swift and unsatisfying conclusion, as though too taken in by his own romantic telling to disrupt it. Great art, Breitwieser knows, surprises. — a popcorn flick of a book that will nonetheless keep readers riveted — does not.
The level of detail Finkel is able to provide, thanks to extensive reporting and hours of interviews with Breitwieser himself, is uncomfortably gripping, as if the reader is watching these events unfold and working as an accomplice to the French robber’s crimes ... Although the definition of a page-turner, this book will also likely force the reader to consider why details of this kind are so exhilarating to us in the first place.
An epitome of the serial-theft narrative ... Finkel has crafted The Art Thief with finesse and élan. He tells his tale of obsessive desires and ornate objects in measured and unadorned prose; employs a supple structure that separates the multiple threads of the tale while also exploring their weave; and advances the linear plot with narrative strategies that not only anticipate its foregone conclusion without giving it away, but also incorporate into the unfolding events his retrospective analyses of them ... The Art Thief, put differently, morphs from an entertaining caper story into a claustrophobic study in pathology, shifts in tone from spirited to creepy, and becomes, as a result, an absorbing but disquieting read.
A fascinating account of Breitwieser’s crime spree that attempts to understand the mind of this criminal aesthete ... From this personally reported material, as well as other interviews and documentation, Finkel has fashioned an engrossing true crime narrative—mostly told in present-tense prose to heighten the drama—that takes readers along on Breitwieser and Anne-Catherine’s daring robberies, quite often carried out in plain sight.
Finkel’s play-by-play of each theft has the pacing and atmosphere of a good suspense tale ... Finkel’s extensive research, survey of art history, and hours of interviews with his subject combine for a compelling read.
Masterful ... The account is at its best when it revels in the audacity of the escapades, including feats of misdirection in broad daylight, and the slow, inexorable pace of the law. It’s a riveting ride.