Priceless Recovery

It’s a rare thing to find a non-fiction book that tells a great story without lionizing the subject to the point of nausea. However, Priceless is the story of Robert K Wittman, an FBI agent who rescued more stolen treasures than ever could be depicted in a dozen big screen movies. At the same time, Wittman’s tales are never over the top. They are vignettes of solid detective work, steady nerves, and clever deception.

The reader first meets Wittman in the middle of big bust then backtracks to his early days. He was successful in a private career before he took a huge pay cut to become an FBI agent for all the right reasons. The man believed in the cause of justice and quickly found his niche in the art recovery field. It wasn’t an easy climb, on that included a few tragedies, including the loss of a close friend in a car wreck that left Wittman in the clutches of the justice system. The man perseveres to achieve great things.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the frank discussion of how petty criminals are. Even the people dealing in pieces worth tens of millions are shown for what they are: bent, greedy souls. A son rats out a father. A long-term, well-liked employee fecklessly robs the museum where he works. Big-time gangsters scam each other as easily as they light a cigarette. Wittman stays above it, marveling at how these morons can be oblivious to the dirty prints they leave on history’s masterpieces.

If you’re looking for a heroic tale without the nonsense, a look at an honest man and deeds well done, then Priceless is one for the shelf. It should be required reading in college history courses.

Published in: on August 7, 2011 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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