The springboard for this novel is the notorious Gardner Gallery art heist of 1990, in which thirteen works of art were stolen by a pair of thieves disguised as policemen and remain lost to this day. However, very little mention is made of the actual event, the true foundation of this book is the history and the process of art forgery. And although the Degas "masterpiece" described in these pages is an invention of the author's mind, the details and specifics of art forging and other infamous forgers mentioned are real. Interestingly, Shapiro goes into a lot of detail about mixing paints and chemicals to remove paints and layering of paints but I didn't find it as tedious as that in Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling.
What happens in The Art Forger is that Claire Roth, a starving artist, gets offered a deal to paint a forgery of After the Bath V, one of the missing works from the Isabella Gardner Gallery, in exchange for her own art showing in one of the foremost art studios in Boston. The issue is, this dealer has the original from which she is supposed to make her copy, and he wants to "return" her forgery to the Gardner Gallery as the real thing. Not only does she have to deal with how he got the painting, as she is copying it, she comes to believe his "original" is also a fake.
A little mystery and a little history. If you like art and art history, you'd like this book.