Hosp thrills again with 'Among Thieves'

"Among Thieves" by David Hosp; 978-0-446-58015-1; Pages: 384; $24.99; Publication Date: Jan. 11, 2010; Hardcover novel; Grand Central Publishing.

Boston attorney David Hosp is the author of three previous novels: "Dark Harbor" (2005), "The Betrayed" (2006), and "Innocence" (2007). "Among Thieves" is his latest thriller featuring attorney Scott Finn, along with Finn's unforgettable colleagues.

This novel was inspired by the greatest art theft in American history. On March 18, 1990, in the wee hours after the St. Patrick's Day celebration, 13 masterpieces were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and to date, none have been recovered. These included works by Rembrandt, Degas, Manet and others.

Two thieves, dressed as police officers, knocked on the security entrance door at about 1:24 a.m. and said they needed to investigate a disturbance. The young, inexperienced security guards naively let them in. The guards were handcuffed and brought to the basement. The thieves bound their hands and feet, duct-tapped their mouths and eyes, and strapped them to support posts.

With a map, they proceeded to the second floor of the museum and stole the art, and when they left, the surveillance tape was ripped out. According to newspaper reports, the guards were found alive and otherwise unharmed.

The hunt for the missing artwork is the intriguing theme of this novel. Even though this novel is based on fiction, the details about the museum robbery are based on fact. It is said that people have expended large amounts of money seeking to recover the stolen art, to no avail.

Many theories have circulated through the years about who was responsible. Fictional character attorney Finn and his comrades have their own theories in their quest to recover the missing artwork.

Finn and his associates are put in great peril when they agree to represent an old friend for petty theft who was once mixed up with organized crime in the early 1990s. The representation of this client leads Finn into confrontation with Boston's underworld crime gangs with possible connections to the Irish Republican Army. Events begin to get ugly as excitement abounds with bloody shootouts, heinous murders and the kidnapping of a 14-year-old girl.

The fascination with this heist is still ongoing and many theories have circulated about the factual events throughout the years about who actually committed this magnificent heist. Today, the art is worth more than $5 billion and has a $500 million reward for its return in good condition.

Thieves who try to sell stolen artwork at this time will find it more difficult to dispose of valuable paintings since the laws of foreign countries have changed so that the "innocent purchaser for value" protection has been lifted. Now, if you buy stolen art, you lose possession of it to the true owner and you lose all the money you paid. Artwork is now insured and there are specialists who track it down with more scientific methods than those which were available in the past.

Interestingly, and fortunate for the museum, the most valuable piece of art, "The Rape of Europa" by Titian, was never taken because it was located on the third floor and was omitted from the thieves' map which only detailed the second floor.

"Among Thieves" is an action-packed novel with many twists and turns, including a surprise ending.