The Collector’s Apprentice
There are several collectors in this story but only one is murdered!
Like B. A. Shapiro’s other two novels (The Art Forger and The Muralist), The Collector’s Apprentice masterfully blends art history with suspense, creating a perfect piece of historical fiction. It’s the roaring 20s Europe, and a young Belgian woman is conned by her scheming fiancé, George Everard, into stealing her wealthy father’s Post-Impressionist collection, works by “new” artists, not quite known to the world yet. Though she’s been banished, disinherited, and left penniless on the streets of Paris, Paulien devises a plan to return the collection, no matter what happens, in order to clear her reputation, and regain her father’s good graces.
Using her extensive art knowledge and creating a new name as Vivienne Gregsby, she becomes a collector’s apprentice to Edwin Bradley, a fictitious character based on the real life art collector, Dr. Albert C. Barnes, founder of Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation. Bradley manages to create an enormous, eclectic art collection of modern masters and he is in love with her. Museums and collectors fight over the collection; this is where the plot thickens, with troubles of inheritance, murder, and revenge.
Vivienne eventually becomes a very credible art historian, particularly of Post-Impressionism. She mingles at Gertrude Stein’s Rue de Fleurs salon (the first museum of modern art) with influential artists like Henri Matisse, Leo Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Georges Braque, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and Pablo Picasso. Matisse even becomes her lover.
There are endless twists and turns in this intriguing, incredibly satisfying novel, presenting a clever story of real and fictional characters.
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Review by Carol McFadden, Children’s Services