The Gardner Heist
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Product Description

One museum, two thieves, and the Boston underworld—the story behind the lost Gardner masterpieces and the art detective who swore to get them back

Shortly after midnight on March 18, 1990, two men broke into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and committed the largest art heist in history. They stole a dozen masterpieces, including one Vermeer, three Rembrandts, and five Degas. But after thousands of leads, hundreds of interviews, and a $5-million reward, not a single painting has been recovered. Worth a total of $500 million, the missing masterpieces have become the Holy Grail of the art world and one of the nation's most extraordinary unsolved mysteries.

Art detective Harold Smith worked on the theft for years, and after his death, reporter Ulrich Boser inherited his case files. Traveling deep into the art underworld, Boser explores Smith's unfinished leads and comes across a remarkable cast of characters, including the brilliant rock 'n' roll art thief; the golden-boy gangster who professes his innocence in rhyming verse; the deadly mobster James "Whitey" Bulger; and the Boston heiress Isabella Stewart Gardner, who stipulated in her will that nothing should ever be changed in her museum, a provision followed so closely that the empty frames of the stolen works still hang on the walls. Boser eventually cracks one of the biggest mysteries of the case and uncovers the identities of the men who robbed the museum nearly two decades ago. A tale of art and greed, of obsession and loss, The Gardner Heist is as compelling as the stolen masterpieces themselves.

Customer Reviews:

  • Pondering again, THE GARDNER HEIST.
    DEAR ULRICH,

    READ THE GARDNER HEIST WITH INTEREST THIS PAST MONTH. I WAS AN ART /ART HISTORY MAJOR AT OSU AND ENJOY MYSTERIES. HAVE READ AND WANT TO SHARE SOME OF MY THOUGHTS WITH YOU. SMILE.

    THERE IS A CODE EVEN AMONG THIEVES (MOB INCLUDED) BOSTON , TO NEW ENGLAND FOLKS, IS THE ONLY LOCAL ON EARTH! BUT HEY, ART IS GLOBAL. THE ISABELLA STEWART GARDNER MUSEUM WAS STILL "IN THEIR TERRITORY" SO NO TO A MOB CONNECTION I FEEL.

    WHY TAKE 2 OBJECTS OF LITTLE INSUFFICIENT (POSSIBLY EVEN MISSING BEFORE)? - TO SHOW THAT EVERYDAY OBJECTS CAN AND ARE ART! LET'S CALL A PAINTING WHAT IT REALLY IS-PAINT! IN ADDITION THE SPIRIT (AND OR SOME WOULD SAY PART OF THE ARTIST'S SOUL) ART CAPTURES LIFE IN MANY STYLES AND FORMS. IT IS THE NEED TO OWN THAT IS REFLECTED IN THE PRICE TAG. *THE KEY TO ME, AS AN ARTIST, IS ONE OF A KING-"THE CREATIVE PROCESS".

    THE THIEF, IF A GANG MEMBER, WOULD HAVE CHECKED OUT BEFORE HAND AND PLANNED FOR A FUTURE OPPORTUNE TIME (HARD TO SEE A TRUE BOSTON NATIVE GIVE UP DRINKING ON ST. PAT'S DAY AND INTO THE EVENING JUST TO "ROB A GALLERY").

    ANOTHER ANGLE, A DISSATISFIED ART STUDENT-REJECTED SOMEWHERE? SO TOO, A LOCAL FRATERNITY HAZING?

    AN ORIGINAL OWNER OF ONE OR SOME OF THE WORKS OF ART BEFORE THEIR APPEARANCE IN THE ISABELLA STEWART GARDNER MUSEUM ? MONEY MAY HAVE COME AVAILABLE-SOLD TO ISABELLA WITHOUT ENOUGH KNOWLEDGE...THEIR THOUGHTS-"WE SHOULD HAVE THOSE BACK". WHERE DID THE WORKS ORIGINATE? SELL, RESELL...WHO EVER BID FOR AND LOST THE BID OF THE STOLEN WORKS??? IF THEY COULD NOT HAVE POSSIBLY THEIR MOTIVE "TO SEARCH AND DESTROY" WAS JUST THAT!

    *LATER DATE...WE ( USA ) 1ST WENT INTO IRAQ AND DESTROYED THEIR NATIONAL ART TREASURERS. THE UN HAD ASKED THAT USA NOT TO BUT, WE BOMBED/SEARCHED/DESTROYED. HOW SAD FOR HISTORY. YOU MENTION A FEW WORKS OF ART, YET MANY ARE STOLEN AS YOU SAY EACH YEAR AROUND THE GLOBE AND EVEN MORE IN WAR.

    THE ONE EARLIER GUARD WHO HAD AN OBSESSION WITH ISABELLA AND LOVE OF THE MUSEUM WAS DISMISSED TOO QUICK. IF HE LOVED THE PIECES THEN SURELY OVER TIME THAT FOCUSED/MISGUIDED LOVE GREW. IF ONLY A FEW PIECES TO REMEMBER.

    WHY, THE DUTCH ROOM? 3RD. FLOOR WITH A TIME ELEMENT-OR WAS THERE IF A BEEPER. (3RD. PARTY POLICE AND/OR POLICE SCANNER TO HEADQUARTERS. * BUT THEN HOW ABSURD-ST. PAT'S FESTIVITIES-ALL WOULD KNOW "THEY WERE BUSY".

    WAS THE ARCHITECTURAL AGENCY FOR THE GARDNER STILL IN EXISTENCE? BLUE PRINTS OWNED BY THE GARDNER ? THE SAME AT THE AGENCY? YOU MENTIONED THE ORIGINAL STEPS WERE CHANGED...OTHER MODIFICATIONS? DID YOU CHECK OUT THE COPY OF THE BUILDING IN ITALY AND SEE IF THEY KNEW OF HIDDEN AREAS IN THEIR STRUCTURE? I FELT ALL ALONG THAT THE WORKS STOLEN COULD HAVE BEEN STASHED IN THE BUILDING ITSELF.

    WHY DID YOU NOT BELIEVE THAT THE TV STUDIO / SHOW (MONK) COULD NOT HAVE HAD THE ONE OR MORE ORIGINAL PIECES FROM THE HEIST? WHAT BETTER WAY TO KEEP AN ORIGINAL SAFE - IN CLEAR SIGHT! ALL WOULD ASSUME A COPY-HEY, YOU DID TOO.

    I STILL GO BACK TO THE PAST DIRECTOR AND THE PAINTINGS/OBJECTS NOT INSURED. THE ORIGINALS COULD HAVE BEEN SWITCHED YEARS EARLIER. *SO TOO, POSSIBLY, THEY WERE FAKES, FROM THE START. THERE WILL BE NO NEED FOR THE WORKS TO EVER RESURFACE---THE ONE'S TAKEN WERE FAKES!

    THE FBI / POLICE HAD THE MOBS ON THE RUN-HITS OUT WITH GUNS AND/OR DRUGS...TOO MUCH IN THE BOOK ABOUT THIS ANGLE. I GUESS WHAT YOU NEEDED TO SAY "WHAT LOW LIFE" WOULD TAKE SOMETHING FROM "THE FENWAY GALLERY"? NEW YORK - ST. LOUIS THE BASEBALL CIRCUIT. YOU SKIPPED OVER "THE FENWAY CONNECTION" AND $$$ INVOLVED IN BASEBALL AND ART.

    REMBRANDT ON THE SHIP WITH JESUS AND THE DISCIPLES. YES, SURE LIKE HOLLAND DOESN'T LIKE ART! WHY SUCH A STONG PULL TO IRELAND ?

    ANOTHER ANGLE - HAROLD SMITH LIKE WHY WAS HIS HOUSE SOLD SO QUICKLY AND HIS PAPERS MISSING? DESTROYED? HIS NAME KEPT ALIVE WITH YOUR WRITING...SO WE ALL WANT TO BE REMEMBERED...AND HIS NAME SURFACES WITH THE GARDNER HEIST.

    ODD WHEN YOU SAY THE FELLOW IN IRELAND WITH THE GREEN EYES CAN NOT BE YOUR MAN (HE MIGHT HAVE HAD CONTACTS MADE GREEN FOR HIM TO COVER HIS BABY BLUE EYES).

    LAST BUT NOT FORGOTTEN...WERE THE ROBBERS NOT REALLY TRUE TO LIFE COPS? THEY HAD THE ACCESS AND YES COULD HAVE ALSO STUDIES MUG SHOTS AND MADE DISGUISES TO FIT.

    THANKS, FOR YOUR CREATIVE WRITING ULRICH, SO MANY LEADS AND EXTENSIVE RESEARCH-CAUSED ME TO QUESTION EVERYTHING! ONE CAN ONLY IMAGINE-IT'S ABOUT THE SOUL...WHEN ONE GIVES THEIR WHOLE LIFE ALLOWS FOR MANY OPPORTUNITIES AND CHANGE. FOR YOU I WISH A MARVELOUS LIFE JOURNEY IN TRAVEL, WRITING AND PAINT!

    HUGS, READER, REBEKAH ANN (VOLL) KEENEY / "BECKY KEENEY"
    ...more info
  • Riveting.
    There are only a few books about true events which keep you on the edge of your seat. "All the President's Men" was one. This book is another. Beautifully written, excitingly paced, with a fascinating subject, this author has either narrowed the search for the thieves or done great investigative work that may lead to their identification and/or prosecution. The various characters' love for the artwork itself is a strong motivating force. ...more info
  • Interesting but ultimately unsatisfying
    An interesting look at the largest unsolved art robbery. The book does a nice job describing the robbery of the Boston museum and the many investigations that followed and nicely touches upon the history of the museum, other famous art thefts, museum security and the Boston and Irish mobs. The robbery itself was relatively uncomplicated and most of the book focuses on the potential suspects in the case. Unfortunately, it is an unsolved theft and the identity of the thieves is only a supposition and the fate of the artworks is completely unknown. While I enjoyed the book, the lack of any kind of conclusion makes it fundamentally unsatisfying....more info
  • The Gardner Heist
    As an art history major and a lover of Miss Marple mysteries, this book kept me fascinated and intrigued from the first to the last page. Regrettably, unlike Miss Marple the end is yet to come. It is a very interesting view of the art theft and sleuthing world. ...more info
  • Lost Art-Cultural Crime
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Gardner Heist because it was gripping and informative. I found the topic fascinating as I knew very little about the world of art theft.I thought Mr. Boser's portrayal of Harold Smith 's passion for this case while enduring his personal suffering was extremely sensitive. Mr. Boser's dedication to continue Mr. Smith's search for the paintings and for the thieves showed the high regard he had for him.The book told a compelling story; but more importantly,it brought the reader to the realization that the stolen paintings were not only a loss to the museum, but a loss to future generations and to the artistic and cultural world. Bravo, Mr. Boser!...more info
  • "True"?
    In a creative writing course, this may merit a C+ at a mediocre college, but as far as distinguishing fact from fevered imagination, this book is overrated at 1 star. The author blends his romantic conjecture with a few factoids as a snake oil salesman mixed his "secret ingredients", and with the same results - one is lucky if one comes out of the experience with no harm done. The one star is for the pretty cover....more info
  • Looking for Who Done It
    I found The Gardner Heist by Ulrich Boser a fascinating mix of who done it, the Boston underword and the author's search for the missing art and himself. The uncontroverted facts of the Gardner robbery of a Vermeer, two Rembrandts and other priceless painting would only fill a chapter. What makes this book an interesting and provocative read is the author's speculations and his tour of the Boston underworld filled with colorful and lethal characters. Moreover, the author has a real talent for quickly sketching them in a way that brings them to life. Boser's own experience playing junior shamus for three years is fine, but not nearly as good as his frequent and highly insightful comments about art, crime and human nature. I highly recommend this book.
    ...more info
  • What a loss
    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. Until recently museums did not have the funds or maybe even inclination to guard their works with state of the art security measures. Also, often the underworld, not art connoisseurs, steal it and they do so to use as currency to buy arms or drugs. I also suppose they don't know how to store it properly. The Gardner art was easy to steal but it hasn't been easy to catch the thieves. Many people, both law officials and independents, tracked down many leads. In fact there are so many suspects that it's hard to keep all the players straight. For all I know you and I are also suspects and I'm not 100% certain you're in the clear. For the most part Boser does a good job of explaining the evidence. It feels petty to mention this but there are a disconcerting number of typos in this book.....words left out or words stuck in that don't belong. It was distracting. I enjoyed the last chapter where Boser speculates and tries to make sense of this crime. What a loss that the Vermeer and the Rembrandt's have been lost possibly for good....more info
  • Are you kidding me?
    I should have known better than to read this book. I did some minimal research on the topic prior to reading the book and I fault no one other than myself for making the mistake of reading this book anyway. False leads, conjecture and minimal insight into the heist is what the book is composed of.

    The author finally giving up to spend time with his family, while admirable on a personal level, is an admission that his investigation and ultimately this book led nowhere and gave absolutely no additional insight compared to what one could get from a 3 minute search on Google.

    The end of the book left me saying "that's IT"

    This was not exciting, not informative and most of all a waste of my time and by his own admission and obsession by the author.

    Don't bother. ...more info
  • Boring, Incomplete, and of Dubious Provenance
    Shortly after midnight 3/18/90, two men broke into a Boston museum and committed the largest art heist in history - a dozen masterpieces worth a total of $500 million. The thieves were disguised as Boston cops, were let in by the museum watchmen, and left 81 minutes later after they finished loading the last of their loot. No one has been charged, and the loot is still missing.

    The average art theft recovery rate is about 5%; the author picks up the case after a leading art detective, Harold Smith, with a 15% recovery rate dies in 2005 while pursuing the case. Smith believed the robbers were not expert art thieves - a high-school art student would know that slashing a 400-year-old painting from its frame could destroy the work. On the other hand, they did seem to be experienced thugs - subduing the night watchmen with confidence.

    Reading "The Gardner Heist" one quickly senses that the author was just filling space and not likely to provide anything definitive. Unfortunately, that proves true. Worse yet, a quick review of Internet sources shows remarkable similarity to material in the book.

    The statute of limitations has long run out on the Gardner Art theft. The good news is that "The Boston Herald" is launching a substantial effort this Sunday to revive interest in the case and help recover the art. The $5 million reward originally offered still stands....more info
  • Gripping
    It's hard to put this book down. Through a bit of serendipity, Ulrich Boser inherited a famed art detective's files on the Gardner Heist. He plunged into this mysterious case, and brings us along for the ride as he explores not only what happened, but why the artwork meant so much to so many both before and after the heist. As the author treads ever closer to cracking the case, you remember that this isn't fiction and start to believe he might get the paintings back - but you also wonder if he might find trouble in this shady underworld. A fascinating read. ...more info
  • hard to put down
    True page turner about the Gardner art heist from 1990. Very well written and amazing insight into the art underworld...more info