The Woman Who Stole Vermeer by Anthony M. Amore , Pegasus Crime Facebook users should be able to find Rose Dugdale, who in 1974 orchestrated a robbery of 19 paintings from Ireland’s Russborough House. You know it’s her because in the place of a Facebook portrait is Vermeer’s Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid . The theft of that artwork, among others by such greats as Gainsborough, Rubens and Goya, earned Dugdale a place in the world of art crime. “That it was thought to be the largest such heist in history was remarkable,” writes Anthony Amore, who investigates art robberies when he is not writing about them. “That the mastermind was a woman was unprecedented.” Unlike the author’s Stealing Rembrandts (2011), however, this book is less about art theft and more about Dugdale, an intriguing character who gave up a life of privilege for one of activism: she sought the unification of Ireland and stole more than 20 artworks, some believe, on behalf of the IRA, although according to Amore, the organisation disavowed her crimes and she was never an official member. His biography details Dugdale’s path to freedom fighting and her escapades, including a helicopter hijacking and attempted bombing of a police barracks in Strabane, Northern Ireland. Even when she ends up in prison, there’s drama: she is pregnant. Dugdale’s participation in the book would have been a boon but there’s much to hold readers’ attention, including a curious Villanelle connection. Evolution: Becoming a Criminal by Chas Allen , Motivational Press Forget about this book; watch the movie instead. Even if both are simply versions of the truth, at least the cinematic adaptation entertains. Evolution reads like hastily written cheat sheets. By Chas Allen (aka Charles Allen II), it takes a protracted path through his youth to the infamous 2004 book heist at Transylvania University, in Kentucky, that led to seven-year jail sentences for him and three cohorts, here given the fictional names “Devon”, “Luke” and “Ethan” for unclear reasons. All from middle-class families, the unlikely thieves sought a head start in life by stealing from the college library, renowned for Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and its Audubon collection. A locked cabinet held the hefty Birds of America folio, but as the lads discover, the room it is in is otherwise far from secure: the only thing standing between them and US$12 million is a gullible librarian, so they proceed with old-man disguises and a stun gun. What could go wrong? Evolution is diminished by American Animals (2018), the big-screen rendition based on a different book, by Eric Borsuk, the real name of another group member-turned-writer. It is further weakened by Allen’s own previous volume about the ill-conceived caper, titled Mr Pink (2010). On top of all that Allen, now also a life coach, promises Evolution Part II , proving perhaps that, sometimes, crime does pay. Stealing the Show by John Barelli, with Zachary Schisgal, Lyons Press This would have been more satisfying as a long read or a much expanded, more detailed book about museum thefts around the world. That said, as former chief security officer of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, John Barelli makes clear, burglaries of this kind are more common in private homes, churches or libraries, where security is easier to breach than in museums – at least, these days. By his own telling, at the start of his 40-year stint at the Met, the institution’s defences were so lax that, in 1979, someone was able to walk off with a 5th century BC head of Hermes, having simply yanked it off its base and carried it away. Days later, a call revealed its whereabouts – in a locker at Grand Central Station. Indeed, Barelli adds, there’s an indignity to the final resting places of many stolen artworks, which find their way to flea markets, storage facilities or jewellery shops. That’s where a 3,000-year-old gold ring of Ramesses VI ended up, having made its way out of the Met in the mouth of a teenager. Barelli weighs up greater security and making art more accessible in museums, at the same time acknowledging that internal thieves are the biggest problem. That most stolen pieces are never recovered doesn’t stop him from hoping. Anyone with information can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .