Quick and Dirty: Stuart Woods
Stone Barrington just left the Carlyle Hotel and his chauffeur, Fred was traveling on Madison Avenue when a dark blur appeared in his right peripheral vision and something struck the side of the window of his car breaking it. Lucky for him the windows are armor or bulletproof. The person that sledged his car had a sledgehammer in his hand. Another car from behind them had the same results but Stone Barrington would make a call to his best friend Dino Bacchetti the Police Commissioner and then to Strategic Services shop to get the window repaired. Owning a Bentley or Rolls has its advantages except on this day when several were attacked. Any Mercedes or BMW’s got the same treatment hit by a Ninja with a sledgehammer but why? A news reporter named Gloria Parson’s did a piece on Holly Barker the one woman he seems to care about the most but getting back to the sledgehammer hitter a woman was seen at a hardware store and bought three of men. The description of the woman was shared but would they find her before she strikes again?
Other Bentleys had the same fate but the problem was that it took hours to come up with a window and install it but some were not as lucky as they had to wait days before they could get a replacement. The article in the Post was titled: Luxury Cars Attacked with Sledgehammers. I guess someone has something against the rich or those cars.
It gets interesting at this point when Morgan Tillman arrives at his house and demands to see him. Not giving her name his assistant Joan buzzes him and the moment he sees her he’s intrigued and forgets having just spoken to Holly Barker. Morgan is complaining that her Bentley was damaged but her car would day longer to get the window replaced and it seems that the only people benefitting were the ones who had to replace the windows of these unsuspecting owners. Complaining that the police were not doing anything, Stone after settling her down invites her to dinner with Dino where she can vent all she wants while he explains police procedure to her. But, knowing Stone he cannot resist his male urges and you know where they wind up next.
Getting to know Morgan was no hardship on Stone but learning about the death of Mark, her husband would bring him into a case involving a stolen Van Gogh painting worth sixty million dollars and supposedly stolen from her home. There are many forgers out there and some are so good that you cannot tell the real from the fake as the author leads us in a study of paintings, how experts tell the differences, the meaning of provenance when buying a painting and the end result which in this case might cost some lives.
Meeting with Dino and speaking to him he thinks that Morgan is good for her husband’s murder. She returned home from shopping and they had a verbal argument and they possibly moved to the outer terrace where they struggled and she claimed she saw a burglar and he went over the parapet or did he? The officer that recorded the incident stated that they were both calm when he arrived and that she overrated to something and he apologized. She is six feel one inch tall and quite fit, and that her husband reminds you of the Pillsbury doughboy.
Arthur Steele is Stone’s client who insured her husband’s Van Gogh for sixty million dollars and now it’s missing although in reality it’s only worth a mere 40 million. His policy stated that if the painting was stolen that Arthur’s company has an 18-month grace period before payment is due to give them time and the authorities time to validate that it was stolen. Three art experts validated that it was an original but remember that there are some great forgeries out there. Mark’s brother Vincent supported him and dealt with all of his affairs and took his easel and everything with him. The shooting one-way of another took place soon after and Vincent was able to make his way back to the inn but not able to carry his gear. The police went looking for it and it was gone including the picture he painted of a landscape of a local field with flowers.
It was never found and the investigation showed that no one tried to sell it. An art forger named Farina was one of the best. Angelo Farina painted the forged Van Gogh and his work was seen by many and considered glorious. When as Arthur tells it when the experts did examine Mark’s picture the man from the Van Gogh Museum wanted to clean it with acetone the best cleaner but Mark hit the roof and said only mineral spirits the reason is revealed on page 57 and not to the reader unless you discover it by reading it yourself.
Steele issues an envelope to Stone hiring him to find the picture. One envelope contains a letter mentioning the worth of 40 million and he has two weeks to find it. The other is a letter that is signed that he has to place his signature on to cement the deal.
Arturo Masi is the art detective on the police force and Stone was sent to him to hire him as a consultant at 1000 dollars a day to find the painting.
With a copy of the real painting in question and Stone having a transparency of Tillman’s van Gogh in his briefcase he hands it to Art Masi with a light box behind him. Using it he explains that he needs a loop or magnifying glass and using the glass he asks if it is a forgery and explains that Tillman would not allow them to clean it with acetone. The history behind it is explained on page 66 including the year it was painted. Having someone search her apartment that is Morgan’s was next.
Things heat up between Morgan and Stone and she becomes apart of his life making the reader wonder about Holly Barker and his loyalty to her and where his true feelings lie. Is Morgan involved with her husband’s death as the author introduces two young people named Pio Farina and Ann Kusch who were seen in Mark’s apartment and asked to deliver a package to Fedex to be delivered to someone but who and what was in the package? Angelo Farina is Pio’s father who created a special forgery of an original for Stone when he came to question him about the Van Gogh. Pio has a rap sheet and was arrested for three burglaries in the Hamptons when he was 19 was there a connection to the theft? He’s an abstract painter and Ann is a sculptor. Stone attended a showing by both artists and bought one of the artist’s works.
As Stone becomes more involved he learns about several people that might be involved in more than just the theft as he comes face to face with Sammy Spain an art thief, bar owner and definitely not someone you want to meet in a dark alley. Added in Sol Fineman and his so called wife, who are really two other people are also involved and they are quite adept at disappearing just at the right time before their cohorts come to take them out.
Sol Fineman is evil and so is his partner and together they create a dangerous picture him more than her. But, when Stone is kidnapped and it looks that the kidnapper might have him where he wants, the surprising happens and Stone reminds readers just how smart, dangerous an ex-detective can be. Self-defense or murder when Stone has no choice but to take down someone who would like to do the same to him. When the ADA decides to go after him just who comes to his aid? Where is the painting in question and how does Mark Millman who is dead fit into where it might be and why he sent the Fedex package to himself but when it’s opened where is the painting?
The former Sol’s wife and Sol in their new identity hope to escape capture before the law or someone else takes them out. Who in the mob wants him gone and what about the five million he was going to exchange the painting for? The owner of the painting he thinks will be happy to get it back but is that going to happen? Rocco Maggio got everyone in his family to try and find Sam but Sam is smart and the payout you won’t learn and understand until you read pages 273-274. Lives are on the line and someone close to the case succumbs at the end but Stone has to make a decision about what is next for him and a board meeting he was to attend. Lies, betrayals, forgery, money laundering, clever thieves, deceit and one smart and rich lawyer named Stone Barrington who manages to find a way to get things done along with Dino the commissioner whether orthodox or by the book it keeps the reader totally involved until the webs of deceit are untangled and the harsh realities and truths revealed.
The ending will surprise you and make you wonder who his next conquest will be and whether he will ever realize that Holly is the one or maybe the author will once again bring someone new into his life to add some more intrigue, spice and murder of course. So, if you know a forger and you want a quick picture painted decide on the painting you want copied and you do can have one done: QUICK AND DIRTY.