Shapiro writes well about art and this includes her descriptions of the Gardener Museum. And the plot starts off in a promising, if predictable way. The premise is based on a real theft (http://www.gardnermuseum.org/resources/theft). But the story quickly gets out of Shapiro’s control. The plot she’s established requires too much exposition and the narrative form she’s chosen doesn’t justify it. The characters become types rather than characters and the mystery elements she concocts become convoluted and just plain silly. I simply didn’t believe the story or the characters. I was always aware of Shapiro’s hand in everything. Also, I was annoyed at the pretense of historical fiction – the way that Degas and Isabella Stewart Gardener becomes pawns to manipulate in this silly story. I just don’t think she needed this historical anchors. Her own author’s note at the end of the novel indicates she was mostly interested in writing about Gardener herself. Indeed, Gardener’s ‘letters’ are the only well-chosen narrative form, as they allow for still more exposition, but are framed in such a way that such exposition makes sense.

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