This year saw the 70th anniversary of VE Day but there are still certain aspects of the Second World War that remain shrouded in mystery. The whereabouts of the innumerable works of art looted by the Nazis is one of them and it forms the basis of R.J. Harries' latest book, Killer Collectors.
We meet Francesca and Dylan Morgan, who, along with their father Max, run a family business selling forged paintings based on some of those that were taken and presumably destroyed during the war. Their family home in Wales, based on the real-life Island Farm in Bridgend, was a WWII prisoner of war camp and their grandfather managed to glean useful information from some of the Nazi prisoners about the appearance and location of many of the looted masterpieces. Eventually, they pick on the wrong person - a ruthless and very shady Russian millionaire who doesn't appreciate being taken for a fool - and the whole family finds themselves searching for a way to stay alive, along with the lost masterpieces.
The author tries to give the Morgans some redeeming features - they donate a small cut of their profits to charity and they only target self-important private collectors who want to show off their wealth rather than really appreciate the art or release it for public viewing - but I found them almost as bad as the people they were conning. This meant that I didn't really empathise with them and felt that they pretty much got what they deserved, with karma coming back to bite them on the bum !
The first half of the book was quite slow but the pace really picked up in the second half, to the point where the explosive finale was almost too full-on, with so much going on in a few pages that I wished we had more time to really savour the downfall of the villains.
It's an enjoyable read which deals with an interesting real-life historical mystery. There are numerous twists and turns to keep the reader interested but it did lack realism at times - I'm sure it could be made into a great Hollywood blockbuster though !
star rating : 4/5
RRP : £7.99
Disclosure : I received the book in order to write an honest review.