Saturday, 14 February 2015

Art theft, secrets and a swearing Scandinavian noblewoman...

Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man is the most important and precious masterpiece which got lost from Polish museums during the Second World War. Until now we don’t know if it was destroyed or survived the war time and has been pleasing some private collector’s eye since then.

In Priceless (the Polish title Bezcenny) by Zygmunt Miłoszewski, finding the painting has been the most important task in Zofia Lorentz’s career. As a Ministry of Foreign Affairs worker, she is responsible for regaining artworks that have been lost or stolen from Polish museums and galleries. And she is known for being highly successful in what she does. When Portrait of a Young Man is finally traced in the USA, Lorentz and her team go there to get it. Even though they are aware it won’t be easy and will include burglary and theft.

The main characters turn out to be a lethal combination and it’s impossible not to feel bonds with them. Zofia is a mad art devotee but when it comes to things that aren’t connected with her passion, she is tough and uncompromising. In her team there are also a cynical art dealer with a warm heart (by the way, Zofia’s ex-lover), a retired ranger and a spy (one of the best in the country) and a Swedish art thief, released from prison on this occasion. Each of them is unique and I guarantee that you will love them at once. Especially the charming Scandinavian noblewoman seems to steal not only artworks but readers’ hearts as well.

Portrait of a Young Man by Raphael
At first sight Priceless appears to be one the thrillers that flooded the bookstores after the success of The Da Vinci Code, but don’t let yourself be misled by the plot summary! Yes, there is a secret, which - if revealed – is going to change our view on the 20th century history. Yes, there is a group of art-seekers, who constantly get into troubles but always manage to save their butts just in the very last moment. Yes, the plot refers to one the most mysterious paintings dating back to the same time as The Last Supper, which creates such a confusion in The Da Vinci Code. Taking into consideration only those rather well-worn ideas, the novel is only one of many Brown-like thrillers.

But Miłoszewski’s book is something much better! The author plays with well-known motifs, juggles them adding his own ideas and in this way turning even the most predictable scenes into little pieces of art. I truly enjoyed his wiring style, irony and black humour, which didn’t let me put the book on the shelf without a long struggle with myself.

Although it’s been quite a long time since I read Priceless, I still find it one of the best books in its genre. It gave me a lot of emotions, I was laughing a lot but also found myself with a tear in my eye in a few moments. I can only wish myself and other readers more such books.

If you want to read this review in Polish, please click here

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