(The Van Gogh Scam)

The story opens with a prologue, with the Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh descending into another bout of madness when living with Paul Gauguin in Arles, which results in the cutting off of his ear; followed seventeen months later by Van Gogh’s  suicide.
The story then moves to 2009, to London, where the owner (Gloria Mitchell) of the Three Elms care home is facing bankruptcy and she’s also an alcoholic in denial. Her only remedy to the situation – to quietly murder some of her residents and claim their remaining assets to pay off her debts.
            One of the main characters in the book, Alfie Edwards, retired confidence trickster, discovers Gloria’s financial mess. With a group of fellow residents they secretly discuss ways to keep the home open. One of the resident’s, Marie, then produces an old photograph belonging to her grandmother (Millie Calle). It’s of Millie and the artist Vincent Van Gogh, taken in 1888 when he was living in Arles, the year he painted his famous sunflower paintings. The question is then posed: ‘what if they had a genuine Van Gogh painting to go with it?’  The Three Elms care home would remain open!
The story then moves rapidly ahead, with neither Gloria knowing that a group of her residents are planning to rescue both her and the home; nor the residents aware that they are being quietly murdered for the same ends. 
 They enlist the help of a failing artist who runs art classes at the home, Danny Roberts (the second main character), and together they embark on a sophisticated scam to produce an unknown third copy of Van Gogh’s famous Sunflowers painting that hangs in the National Gallery.
            Alfie and his fellow co-conspirators know that if the painting is to be taken seriously by the art world which is awash with fakes, they must produce a watertight provenance for it. It also becomes clear that given modern technology, any copy of the Sunflowers produced by Danny and taken to a dealer would soon be declared a fake.  Yes, they have the genuine photograph that cannot be disputed, so the next thing to do is swap the genuine Sunflowers in the National Gallery with Danny’s copy, make a few alterations, and use it to take to a leading London dealer.
A few weeks into this enterprise and Alfie and Danny, with the help of an insider at the National, manage to swap Danny’s copy with the genuine Sunflowers. 
To support the painting’s provenance, one of the residents, Agnes, who worked in the last war forging documents for British agents sent to France, forges a letter in Van Gogh’s handwriting that links the painting to Marie’s grandmother, so providing it with a convincing provenance.
Alfie takes the altered original to a top London Dealer, Richard Lambert, together with the genuine photograph and the forged letter.
Lambert is himself in financial difficulties and faces both ruin and disgrace, having lost most of his money in the recent global financial crisis. Quietly confidant that this ‘newly discovered lost masterpiece’ is by Van Gogh and comes with what he believes is a convincing provenance, he needs only to get it authenticated by the world’s leading Van Gogh expert and his money problems are also solved.
Eventually one of the world’s richest men and art collector - a Russian oligarch by the name of Vladimir Orlov - is keen to purchase the painting. In the final stages of the story, the original has to be returned to the National Gallery and swapped with Danny’s copy. Unfortunately things don’t go exactly to plan
And throughout this story runs the subplot, Gloria’s murderous campaign to kill off residents to satisfy the bank’s demands. She consults her list of residents to be killed (she’s listed them in priority of assets). Poor, darling Alfie is top of the list! Oh dear, she needs to kill Alfie - someone whom she’s grown particularly fond of.
 The only question: will the sale of the Van Gogh painting go through before Gloria manages to kill Alfie? 


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self portrait of vincent van gogh