The Icon Thief by Alec Nevala-Lee

The Icon Thief by Alec Nevala-Lee
Penguin/March 2012
Kind thanks to Penguin for providing a review copy

A controversial masterpiece resurfaces in Budapest. A ballerina’s headless corpse is found beneath the boardwalk at Brighton Beach. And New York’s Russian mafia is about to collide with the equally ruthless art world…

Maddy Blume, an ambitious young art buyer for a Manhattan hedge fund, is desperate to find a priceless painting by Marcel Duchamp, one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. A gruesome cold case thrusts the FBI into a search for the same painting, with its enigmatic image of a headless nude. And an insidious secret society is intent on reclaiming the painting for reasons of its own-and by any means necessary.

A mysterious painting has been sold for 10 million dollars at auction, much more than the projected price, and Maddy Blume, art buyer, is determined to find out why. Meanwhile, a headless body has been found in Brighton Beach, and the Russian mafia is suspected. Maddy, frustrated by lack of funds, a failed gallery, and possible career stagnation, takes matters into her own hands. She decides to track down this elusive buyer in order to please her boss and save her career, but she has no idea that others want the painting, including an assassin with his own motives; motives that don’t include preserving Maddy’s life.

This is the first book by Alec Nevala-Lee, and it’s certainly a promising debut. He navigates the fascinating ins and outs of the high art world, while at the same time interweaving a murder mystery involving the Russian mafia, the financial aspects of art buying, and the heist of a painting that may have ancient ties to the Rosicrucians. Criminal investigator Alan Powell is investigating the murder of a dancer and his path inevitably leads to Maddy and the painting at the center of it all. I really enjoyed this fast paced thriller, and keeping up with the twists and turns made my head spin, but in a good way. Thriller fans will eat this one up.

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