Noah Charney knows a lot about art. His writing, however, leaves much to be desired.
The book improved much throughout the course of the story. It started out as an uninteresting, rather dull story with disparate characters. Charney employs some rather unusual metaphors and descriptive phrases. At the very end of the story, when all is revealed and the mystery solved, one can look back and say, "Oh yes, this all comes together, how interesting."
Unfortunately, in order to get to that point, the reader must first slog through several chapters' worth of art history and Da Vinci-code-style puzzle pieces. Now, don't get me wrong. I like art, and I like art history. Charney clearly knows what he's talking about, but that's the problem--he is so passionate about his subject that he lectures, through his characters, far too much. While I normally enjoy learning fun facts from fiction, in this case, it breaks up the pacing of the story.
And what was with the random French and Italian sprinkled among the conversations? Yes, it is very nice that you know French and Italian (or know people who can help you translate it). But I already feel like you're bludgeoning me with a pretentious headstone of knowledge. This multilingual dialogue is just too much.
The Art Thief is a satisfactory mystery if you can stomach the ultra-intellectual cruft packed around the nugget of story goodness. If you are more into mysteries--or even art--than I am, you may enjoy it more. I wouldn't rush out to buy it though.