Monday, May 14, 2012
My second novel, The Music Lesson, is about an IRA splinter group's plot to steal a Vermeer from the Queen. In the course of the story, the mysterious circumstances of the unsolved theft of paintings from the Gardner Museum in Boston are explained. (Make that "explained" for the literal-minded among us. It is a novel. But my fictional explanation may well be on the money.) The 1990 theft (the largest single property theft in American history) of thirteen paintings and objects has never been solved, and today the Gardner continues to exhibit the empty frames of the missing masterpieces.
Last week, the FBI swarmed the Manchester, Connecticut home of "reputed mobster" Robert Gentile (aren't all "mobsters" invariably "reputed"?) , who federal prosecutors apparently believe has a link to that heist.
Gentile, 75, is being held without bail pending his federal trial on drug dealing charges. The FBI used a ground-penetrating radar device as well as dogs in the search. Most intriguing is the site of a filled-in swimming pool on Gentile's property. While the search warrant was apparently for weapons, Gentile's attorney told the Boston Globe "We all know what they are actually looking for - and they are looking for the paintings." Evidence obtained that day is now being sifted. Obviously, they haven't found a cache of paintings. Yet.
Readers of The Music Lesson, published in 1999, nine years after the Gardner theft, will recognize why this latest development is of particular interest to me. Saying more would be a plot spoiler.
"The museum continues to offer a $5 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the artworks in good condition," museum officials said in a statement. "Anyone with information about the theft, the location of the stolen artworks, and/or the investigation, should contact the Gardner Museum." On its website, the museum also urges those in possession of the stolen masterpieces "to conserve them in recommended temperatures and humidity levels."