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The Irish Game

In the crowded annals of art theft, no case has matched - for sheer, criminal panache - the heist at Russborough House in Ireland in May 1986. The Garda knew right away that the mastermind was a seedy, rotund, and brazen Dublin gangster named Martin Cahill. Yet the great plunder - including a Gainsborough, a Goya, two Rubens, and Vermeer's 'Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid' - remained maddeningly at large year after year. Cahill taunted the police with a string of other crimes, but in the end it was the paintings that brought him low. The challenge of disposing of such famous works forced him to reach outside his familiar world into the international arena, and when he did his pursuers were waiting. The movie-perfect sting that broke Cahill uncovered an astonishing maze of banking and drug-dealing connections that re-defined the way police view art theft. As if that were not enough, the recovery of the Vermeer - by itself then worth $200 million - led to a remarkable discovery about the way Vermeer achieved his photographic perspective, forever enriching the way we see his art. With the storytelling skill of a novelist and the nose of a detective, Matthew Hart follows the twists and turns of this celebrated case, linking it with two other world-famous thefts - at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and of Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' in Oslo, Norway. Sharply observed, fully explored, The Irish Game is a masterpiece in the literature of true crime.
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An audacious theft, a brilliant sting, an astonishing discovery-a true story of modern art theft

About the Author

Matthew Hart is a writer and journalist, and the author of Diamond- A Journey to the Heart of an Obsession. His work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Granta, and the Financial Post, among other publications. He lives in London.

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