When I originally picked up this book, I mistakenly assumed that it was the latest page turner thriller about uncovering a lost painting. Only after about forty pages did it dawn on me that this was a nonfiction book written using fictional techniques to make the material more interesting.
Having been an art collector for many years and having spent time with many art scholars, I was impressed that Mr. Harr got it right. Lots of attention buzzes around whatever is hot in the art market, and everyone is looking to make a multimillion dollar discovery. Yet most of the people are working for a pittance in dusty archives or inadequate restoration laboratories. Above it all float those who are the recognized experts. Their proclamations hit everyone else like thunderbolts.
For those who don't know and love the art world, this book will probably be a bit of a disappointment. Although there is a lot of valuable art floating around, the stories behind it are more about tedious, hard work than about the world of the rich and famous.
To me, the book's main value was in its unending tongue in cheek humor in which the pretensions of everyone involved are regularly punctured by Mr. Harr's deft counter examples of all the mistakes they make.
I did grade the book down a bit because he romanticizes the story a lot more than it probably deserves. That makes the book a little longer than it needed to be. Also, I don't know much Italian and all the Italian phrases didn't do anything for me except make the book seem pretentious.
I also think the story is a bit slanted in the telling . . . making the original document research seem more important than it really was to the eventual discovery. The painting probably would have been identified eventually even without that work.