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False Impression    by Jeffrey Archer order for
False Impression
by Jeffrey Archer
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Do you know which ear Van Gogh cut off, and which was shown as missing in his self-portraits? Read False Impression and you'll know that and more about the artist, and about art collections around the world. It starts with a covert killing (in which an ear is also sliced off, as reality mimics art that mimicked reality) of an innocent Englishwoman, Lady Victoria Wentworth, daughter of an Earl and owner of an impressive art collection. The ear in question is dispatched to New York City, arriving at the World Trade Center on that fateful day, 9/11.

The thriller's heroine is athletic art expert, Dr. Anna Petrescu, who starts the novel working for Fenston Finance, but is quickly fired for her scrupulous concern for the bank's client, Lady Wentworth. The bad guy, art-obsessed banker Bryce Fenston (who has a vile past as a money launderer for the late dictator of Romania) is pretty two-dimensional as is his sleazy cohort, ex-con lawyer Karl Leapman, but that only makes it easier to dislike them. They are after the Wentworth collection, and in particular a Van Gogh self-portrait, painted after his self-mutilation episode. On Fenston's case for several years now, FBI agent Jack Delany is also trailing Anna, unsure of her loyalties.

Anna is in the company's offices high in the North Tower when American Airlines Flight 11 crashes into the building almost a dozen floors above her. She escapes the horror with determination, some luck, a final sprint, and a police officer's timely help. She then uses the fact that everyone believes her dead to try to keep the van Gogh out of the bad guys' hands. With help from her friend, Fenston's personal assistant Tina Forster, who was home for the day (and has her own secrets), Anna heads to Canada and hence on a jaunt across Europe and Asia, closely followed by a vicious killer (who keeps her knifehand in en route) and an increasingly enamored FBI agent.

At the back of the book is a fascinating 'Timeline of Bestsellers in the Auction World, 1980-2005', featuring several very highly priced Van Goghs. False Impression is an engrossing and informative romp through a world of art, fraud and murder, in which 9/11 plays a pivotal part.

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