If nothing else, I appreciate The Rescue Artist for clueing me in to the intriguing factoid that Norwegian artist Edvard Munch's famous 1890s painting The Scream is actually painted on cardboard rather than canvas, an evocative point I somehow can't quite get my head around. The painting also holds the distinction of commanding the highest price in history for one sold at public auction, when it went for just short of $120 million at Sotheby's this last spring. It has also been the target of multiple thefts. This book is about one of them, which occurred in 1994 from the National Gallery in Oslo, Norway. It's a great idea because it brings together the appeals of both police procedural and art history lesson. Crossing and breeding such thematic elements seems to come naturally for author Edward Dolnick, formerly a science journalist. His interests are obviously catholic—this is the only one by him I've read, but he's written at least one other about art crime, another about psychoanalysis, and another about 19th-century explorations of the American West. In The Rescue Artist he finds a hundred roads to chase down, and they are always interesting, weaving about across art history, art crimes, and forensics. As detective story, it's a relatively simple and straightforward case but Dolnick makes it a real page-turner, simply because his research has produced so much of interest and he is a deft and effective writer with a sure feel for the delightful fact. He mentions in passing, for example, Goya's Portrait of the Duke of Wellington, which was stolen in 1961 and recovered in 1965; a reproduction of it, he reminds us, makes a cameo appearance in the villain's lair in the 1962 James Bond picture Dr. No, emphasizing the popular but generally wrong idea that art thieves are eccentric criminals with fine taste. Our hero and the self-same "rescue artist" of the title is one Charley Hill, a Scotland Yard investigator (and undercover agent) and also a Fulbright scholar specializing in stolen art. He knows a lot about it and had a lot to tell Dolnick. I liked it best when the book stayed close to art crime, not just involving The Scream. It was honestly a bit of a shock to find out how much work has gone missing this way and may ultimately have to be presumed destroyed. A Vermeer, The Concert, one of only 35 works by the artist known to exist, has been missing since 1990; other works for much longer, by artists such as Caravaggio, Raphael, and Van Eyck. As an added bonus, even my trade paperback copy comes with eight pages of gorgeous color plate reproductions of paintings and details discussed in the text, including work by Goya, Manet, Munch, Picasso, Rembrandt, van Gogh, Vermeer, and others.