Tuesday 21 May 2019

Art Crimes as Inspiration for a Thriller - Marked for Revenge by Jennifer S. Alderson

Today, I have the lovely Jennifer Alderson sitting round my pool talking about her latest book, Marked for Revenge. If you have not read Jennifer’s art crime series, then do take a look at them. Jennifer weaves a wonderful story that threads through the dark side of art collection and the ruthlessness of acquiring valuable artifacts by theft at best and evilness at worst. So please help yourself to a glass of bubbly, settle on a comfortable recliner and meet my lovely guest. 

When you think about art crimes, I bet the image that pops into your head is of a suave, refined thief in a tuxedo slipping in and out of a well-guarded museum without being detected.

In many ways, art crimes are glorified in films and television shows. Classics such as The Thomas Crown Affair, the Ocean Eleven series, and Entrapment, as well as new shows on subscriber channels such as NetFlix and Videoland, portray art thieves as sophisticated gentleman robbers who are more interested in outsmarting the police and museum security than keeping the artwork for themselves.

These representations are worlds away from the real-life criminal masterminds behind most art thefts. These aren’t art lovers or smooth criminals, but members of underworld organizations who couldn’t care less about the artist’s skills, painting technique, or importance to art history.

Clervaux Castle in Luxembourg.
According to Interpol, the majority of paintings and sculptures stolen from private homes and museums in Western Europe make their way to Eastern Europe, where they are further handled. These pieces are resold to louche dealers who sell it on to unsuspecting clients, are sometimes forged and resold as two originals, or used as a down payment for a drugs or arms deal.

Ironically, the skyrocketing value of modern art in the 1990s is to blame. When record-breaking auction sales of Picassos, Van Goghs, Monets, Warhols, and the like began making international news, criminal organizations took note. Quite soon the same kinds of paintings earning millions at auction were being stolen from European and American museums.

Marmaris Castle in Turkey.
As a mystery author passionate about art history, using this connection between the Eastern European criminal underworld and Western art museums as the basis for my latest novel, Marked for Revenge, was an obvious choice.

While writing this thriller about forgeries, museum thefts, and organized crime, I didn’t have trouble finding real world examples from which to draw inspiration for my characters. When searching for underworld organizations specializing in art crimes, I discovered several known gangs existed. Scary gangs with silly names such as Group Amerika and Arkan’s Tigers topped my newspaper and internet searches.

Canal in Venice, Italy.
One stood out among the rest – a gang Interpol has dubbed the ‘Balkan Bandits’ and ‘Pink Panthers’. Why two names? The first is because Interpol suspects most of the criminals in this network are based out of Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Hertzegotava. The group earned the second name after they successfully executed a robbery they copied from a Pink Panther film.
Interpol suspects this ring of jewel, art and antiquities thieves of committing more than two-hundred audacious crimes during which they stole around four-hundred million euros worth of jewels, antiques, and artwork from private homes, museums, galleries, and monuments spread across Europe. And when I say audacious, I mean it. Think speed boats, hang gliders, helicopters, rappelling, and the like.

Interpol believes Pink Panther’s network consists of twenty to thirty experienced thieves, with facilitators in various cities providing logistical assistance. Other sources estimate there are up to two-hundred and fifty members active in this criminal organization. Who exactly these criminals work for – and whether the Balkan Bandits is really one or several of the crime families based in the Balkans – is still a mystery.

This group provided the perfect example of how Robber Hood, my fictional gang of art thieves, would operate.

As long as artwork fetches millions, art crimes will be big business. As an art lover, I am saddened by this situation. As a mystery author, these kinds of thefts provide endless inspiration for future, art-related mysteries.

Marked for Revenge: An Art Heist Thriller

An adrenaline-fueled adventure set in the Netherlands, Croatia, Italy, and Turkey about stolen art, the mafia, and a father’s vengeance.

When researcher Zelda Richardson begins working at a local museum, she doesn’t expect to get entangled with an art theft, knocked unconscious by a forger, threatened by the mob, or stalked by drug dealers.

To make matters worse, a Croatian gangster is convinced Zelda knows where a cache of recently pilfered paintings is. She must track down an international gang of art thieves and recover the stolen artwork in order to save those she loves most.

The trouble is, Zelda doesn’t know where to look. Teaming up with art detective Vincent de Graaf may be her only hope at salvation.

The trail of clues leads Zelda and Vincent on a pulse-pounding race across Europe to a dramatic showdown in Turkey that may cost them their lives.

Available for purchase as eBook and paperback on Amazon: http://getbook.at/MarkedForRevenge

About the Author

Zelda’s home in Amsterdam, a monumental building named Het Sieraad.

Jennifer S. Alderson was born in San Francisco, raised in Seattle, and currently lives in Amsterdam. After traveling extensively around Asia, Oceania, and Central America, she moved to Darwin, Australia, before finally settling in the Netherlands. Jennifer’s love of travel, art, and culture inspires her award-winning, internationally oriented mystery series—the Zelda Richardson Mystery Series—and standalone stories. Her background in journalism, multimedia development, and art history enriches her novels. When not writing, she can be found in a museum, biking around Amsterdam, or enjoying a coffee along the canal while planning her next research trip.

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JSA said...

Thank you so much for sharing my article with your readers!

Harriet Steel said...

I’m sitting by the hotel pool enjoying Marked for Revenge!