It was after midnight. Cold and dark.
Two cops approached and asked to enter the building. They gained easy access with the excuse that they’d heard of a disturbance.
The next morning empty frames hung on the wall. Priceless paintings ripped out and stolen. Paintings that now are worth $500 million.
The largest unsolved art heist ever.
When I was researching ideas for a heist novel I Googled simple terms. “Unsolved art heists”, “Largest heists”. I casually clicked on one link and was immediately fascinated.
How could twenty years go by and a crime this big not be solved?
How could it happen so easily?
I wanted to know.
And the fact that the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was in Boston captivated me. I love Boston. It’s the city I grew up knowing. (Though I don’t recommend driving in the city without a GPS and even then you never know where you might end up. Put it this way – I spent hours trying to find a restaurant and never found it!)
Where are the stolen paintings today? No one knows. I read books on it; and, of course, give a writer some research and they’ll want to write a story.
And I did. It’s called HEIST. Through fiction, I solved the mystery, creating characters and plots to explain the unsolved mystery. And I threw in a little bit of time travel too. (It’s on the backburner for now, but someday it will see the light of day.)
The amazing thing is that Isabella specified in her will that nothing in the museum be changed. So the empty frames still hang on the wall today, waiting for the paintings to be returned.
Why blog about this today? Well, this coming weekend marks the 21st anniversary of the heist. If you want to know more, you can read this interview with Ulrich Boser who authored, The Gardner Heist. A fascinating book.
Has research ever sparked a story for you? What kinds of research are you drawn to?