The Irish Game by Matthew Hart is a true story, but it reads like a thriller. A story of great art and artists, cops, robbers and terrorists, the book is absorbing from the start.
The Irish Game tells the story of the art collection gathered by Sir Alfred and Lady Beit, the main draw for visitors to their palatial home Russborough House in Ireland. With works by Vermeer, Rubens, Goya and Rembrandt, it was the most valuable art collection in the country. It was also a tempting target for thieves, as the collection was stolen twice, the first time by an IRA sympathiser and the second by a notorious gangster.
Hart details the patient work done by the Garda, with the help of Scotland Yard, to follow the trail of the paintings across Europe. Art theft is an international crime, requiring cooperation and occasionally unconventional thinking to set up the perfect sting to get the pictures back.
With entertaining digressions into the work of Vermeer, and other robberies such as the Gardner Museum theft, and the theft of The Scream in Norway, The Irish Game is a riveting read.