It’s the Antiques Roadshow’s thirteenth season, and Raoul “Knocker” Reuin is sizing up his mark in Palm Springs — a well-dressed Native American man in a bolo tie, who has just had his 1920s-era John Sloan painting appraised at over $1 million. Knocker’s eyes light up with the expectation of a calculated theft later in the day and a fast $100,000 payday from fencing the purloined painting.
But things go awry for Knocker in this cleverly conceived novel by John Czarnota.
A former mark named Andy Wells tracks Knocker down in a hotel bar and confronts him about the theft two years earlier of his historic — and priceless — Lewis and Clark flag. In exchange for its safe return, however, he says he won’t press charges against Knocker.
The conversation leads to the disclosure of clues about who may now have the flag. All Knocker has to do is find him.
The trail leads back to the East Coast, where Knocker discovers that the art dealer — who has been financing his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife’s rest home care with money from fencing Knocker’s thefts over the years — is missing and presumed dead.
Knocker, however, traces the missing heirloom to the rest home’s chief executive, and he makes ingenious plans to get it back. Along the way, we meet a colorful ensemble cast of characters and learn a great deal about his other Road Show heists.
Does Knocker indeed retrieve the flag and return it to its rightful owner? You’ll just have to read this meticulously researched and well-written book to find out.
Five stars to this first-time novelist. It’s a rare read.
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