Priceless by Robert K. Wittman
How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures

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Synopsis

The Wall Street Journal called him “a living legend.” The London Times dubbed him “the most famous art detective in the world.”
 
In Priceless, Robert K. Wittman, the founder of the FBI’s Art Crime Team, pulls back the curtain on his remarkable career for the first time, offering a real-life international thriller to rival The Thomas Crown Affair.   
 
Rising from humble roots as the son of an antique dealer, Wittman built a twenty-year career that was nothing short of extraordinary. He went undercover, usually unarmed, to catch art thieves, scammers, and black market traders in Paris and Philadelphia, Rio and Santa Fe, Miami and Madrid.
 
In this page-turning memoir, Wittman fascinates with the stories behind his recoveries of priceless art and antiquities: The golden armor of an ancient Peruvian warrior king. The Rodin sculpture that inspired the Impressionist movement. The headdress Geronimo wore at his final Pow-Wow. The rare Civil War battle flag carried into battle by one of the nation’s first African-American regiments.
 
The breadth of Wittman’s exploits is unmatched: He traveled the world to rescue paintings by Rockwell and Rembrandt, Pissarro, Monet and Picasso, often working undercover overseas at the whim of foreign governments. Closer to home, he recovered an original copy of the Bill of Rights and cracked the scam that rocked the PBS series Antiques Roadshow.
 
By the FBI’s accounting, Wittman saved hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art and antiquities. He says the statistic isn’t important. After all, who’s to say what is worth more --a Rembrandt self-portrait or an American flag carried into battle? They're both priceless. 
 
The art thieves and scammers Wittman caught run the gamut from rich to poor, smart to foolish, organized criminals to desperate loners.  The smuggler who brought him a looted 6th-century treasure turned out to be a high-ranking diplomat.  The appraiser who stole countless heirlooms from war heroes’ descendants was a slick, aristocratic con man.  The museum janitor who made off with locks of George Washington's hair just wanted to make a few extra bucks, figuring no one would miss what he’d filched.
 
In his final case, Wittman called on every bit of knowledge and experience in his arsenal to take on his greatest challenge: working undercover to track the vicious criminals behind what might be the most audacious art theft of all. 


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Robert K. Wittman

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ROBERT K. WITTMAN spent twenty years as an FBI special agent. He created and was senior investigator for the bureau's Art Crime Team. Today, he is president of the international art security firm Robert Wittman Inc. JOHN SHIFFMAN is an investigative reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer. He has won numerous writing awards and was a 2009 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
 
Published May 27, 2010 by Broadway Books. 338 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Arts & Photography, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Priceless

Kirkus Reviews

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The digressions into art and art history are distracting, but crime buffs will receive a painless education while they enjoy a lively account of art thieves and the man who pursued them.

Jun 03 2010 | Read Full Review of Priceless: How I Went Underco...

NPR

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Robert Wittman founded the FBI's Art Crime Team and tracked down more than $225 million worth of stolen art and cultural property — including a $36 million self-portrait by Rembrandt. He describes the heists in his memoir, Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures.

Jun 24 2011 | Read Full Review of Priceless: How I Went Underco...

Examiner

As former FBI agent and Priceless author Robert Wittman knows, the Isabella Stewart Gardner thieves left a large amount of forensic evidence in their wake.

Jan 29 2011 | Read Full Review of Priceless: How I Went Underco...

The Globe and Mail

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And as his career matured, so did the black market for stolen art: "With so much money at stake, hot art and antiquities attract money launderers, shady gallery owners and art brokers, drug dealers, shipping companies, unscrupulous collectors, and the occasional terrorist.

Aug 13 2010 | Read Full Review of Priceless: How I Went Underco...

The Washington Post

Describing a time he worked in Madrid to retrieve a collection of paintings by artists such as Goya and Pissarro, Wittman writes: "Tomorrow, if everything went according to plan: I'd be entering another hotel room across town.

Jul 11 2010 | Read Full Review of Priceless: How I Went Underco...

Christian Science Monitor

Wittman – who founded the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s art crime team – paints a portrait of his former employer, and it isn’t a pretty one.

Jun 18 2010 | Read Full Review of Priceless: How I Went Underco...

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