Monday, October 09, 2006

Crime For Art's Sake

Janet Gleeson first came to the book world's attention with The Arcanum, a fascinating true story about the alchemists who recreated the formula for porcelain. Then came a series of historical mysteries set in the English art world, including a lovely book -- The Grenadillo Box -- about the famous (and corrupt) furniture maker Chippendale.

Gleeson's latest, The Thief Taker, does the same kind of high-level hatchet job on the silversmith's art. Set in 18th Century London, a period which the much-missed Bruce Alexander refined and invigorated, the new book tells about a family of silversmiths whose fame and riches are in a sad decline. When a valuable wine cooler is stolen and an apprentice murdered, the family cook -- Agnes Meadowes, worth a series of her own -- does most of the investigating and comes up with some extremely tarnished items.