So, earlier today we learned that the FBI has some leads on the Gardner heist--you know, the theft of 13 priceless works of art from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum? My July release, MOXIE AND THE ART OF RULE BREAKING is based on the theft. Moxie is feisty and smart, and comes from a very unusual family. When a stranger appears at her door, the visit launches her into a race against the clock to solve this decades old mystery.
But I'm not the only one writing about the theft. Kate Messner, author of so many fabulous books, including the Silver Jaguar mystery series, and I were drawn to an article in today's Boston Globe.
Here's the article headline:
FBI says it has identified the thieves in Gardner Museum heist; paintings’ location still unknown (read the article here)
Kate and I started tweeting back and forth as the news broke--her Silver Jaguar mystery series features a villainous international ring of art thieves--and we decided to take our conversation to our blogs. Here's a more formal look at her books and what she thinks about the theft at the Gardner 23 years ago:
• The Gardner Heist is referenced in almost all of your Silver Jaguar books, right? Can you tell me how, as an upstate New Yorker, you learned about and connected with this mystery?
The Silver Jaguar Society mysteries begin with CAPTURE THE FLAG, which came out this past summer. The books are about Anna, Henry, and Jose -- three kids whose families are part of a secret society to protect the world’s artifacts. The group’s arch rivals are a gang of international art thieves known as the Serpentine Princes -- criminal masterminds who are suspects in just about every unsolved art heist history has known, including the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist.
I was actually drawn to this heist when I started researching art thieves in history as I developed the characters in the Serpentine Prince gang. Two heists in particular stood out -- a stunning (and still unsolved) 1972 break-in at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the thefts at the Gardner Museum -- and there are mentions of both starting with the second book in the series, HIDE AND SEEK, which comes out next week. The connection grows in the third book, MANHUNT, which is coming in Spring 2014.
• I know you do a lot of on-site research for your novels. Did you tour the Gardner while you were writing the books in the series? What was something unexpected or interesting that you learned about the theft, or the museum, when you visited?
The third book in the Silver Jaguar Society Series is set in Boston and Paris, and I spent time in both cities researching the museums, other sites, and especially works of art that are woven into the plot. That included the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (and like you, I also did lots of reading and viewing - LOVED the documentary STOLEN!)
Two things really struck me about the museum -- first, those empty frames on the wall. They really do invoke a tremendous sense of loss. And the second thing that has really stayed with me is John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner herself. The painting is striking on its own, but I couldn’t help thinking about it in connection with the heist. She was there, in her museum, when the thieves sliced those canvases from the frames!
• What do you think happened to the art?
I was quite sure Vincent Goosen and the other Serpentine Prince members had stolen it until this week’s news broke from the FBI. Now I shall need to reevaluate... :-)
• Can you share an excerpt from one of the books that references the Gardner Museum and the empty frames?
Sure - and actually, in this scene, there is a new (fictional!) empty frame...
In MANHUNT, Henry visits the museum with his aunt the morning after a massive international art heist that resulted in the loss of more than a dozen works of art around the globe.
Aunt Lucinda’s stop turned out to be a seriously fancy-pants museum. “I can’t believe I’ve never brought you here,” she said as they walked through the big wooden door. “The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is one of my favorites.” She sighed. “It’s so sad you won’t get to see her.”
“Is she out of town or something?” Henry looked around at the chandeliers and sculptures.
“Oh, no. She’s been dead for nearly a hundred years,” Aunt Lucinda said, leading Henry upstairs and through a room full of paintings.
“I’m pretty sure I don’t need to see her then.”
“I wasn’t talking about seeing her in person,” Aunt Lucinda said, turning a corner. “I was talking about this.” She pointed to a plain brown frame that seemed to be showing off the wallpaper behind it.
Aunt Lucinda was getting weirder by the minute, Henry decided. “Is that, like, her ghost?”
“It was her portrait, Henry. Until last night.” Aunt Lucinda rummaged her in hand bag, pulled out a museum brochure, and flipped it open to a page with a painting of a tall lady in a black dress.
“She used to be in here?” Henry pointed to the empty frame.
Aunt Lucinda nodded and blinked her watery eyes. “I used to come stand in front of her when I felt like I needed wisdom or strength for a society mission.” She looked around quickly, then lowered her voice. “She was one of us, you know.”
“Oh!” Henry looked more closely at the lady in the brochure painting. Her eyes looked worried, as if she’d known all those years ago being painted that she’d be stolen some day.
• Kate, that is one of my favorite paintings! The Silver Jaguars better find it! Anything else that you want to add?
Just that I’m thrilled to have a fellow art heist geek sharing my excitement over this new development in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist. I so hope they find the art unharmed. If and when they do, I think we should make a date to take our books to visit the day it goes back on display.
- Current Location:home
- Current Mood: happy