The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser


Reporter Ulrich Boser tells the story behind the caper and reveals for the first time the identities of the thieves.

NEW YORK, NY.- Shortly after midnight on March 18, 1990, two men broke into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and stole $500 million worth of art, including one Vermeer, three Rembrandts, and five Degas. It is the largest art heist in history; it is the biggest burglary in American memory. But after thousands of leads—and a $5 million reward—not a single painting has been recovered. In THE GARDNER HEIST: The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft (Collins, On-Sale Date: 2/24/2009 ISBN 13: 9780061451836, $25.95, Hardcover), reporter Ulrich Boser tells the story behind the caper and reveals for the first time the identities of the thieves. Using eyewitness accounts, exclusive interviews, and newly discovered FBI files, Boser provides powerful evidence that mobster David Turner was behind the robbery.

THE GARDNER HEIST takes readers deep inside the art underworld. Boser examines why criminals swipe precious masterpieces—and how museums fail to adequately protect their works. Art theft has boomed over the past few decades, and the illegal trade in stolen paintings and sculptures has become one of the world’s largest black markets; experts believe it’s a $6 billion business.

Famed art detective Harold Smith worked the Gardner heist for years, and after his death, Boser inherited his case files. Armed with little more than a pen and notepad, Boser explored Smith’s unfinished leads and came across a remarkable cast of characters. There’s the brilliant, rock 'n' roll art thief who swears that he knows who committed the robbery; the golden-boy gangster who professes his innocence in rhyming verse; the Irish-American mobster James “Whitey” Bulger who is second only to Osama bin Laden on the FBI’s Most Wanted list; and the Boston heiress Isabella Stewart Gardner who stipulated in her will that nothing should ever be changed in her museum, a provision followed so closely that the empty frames of the stolen works still hang on the walls.

In his spellbinding story, Boser describes how he cracked one of the biggest mysteries of the case and discovered the identities of the men who looted the museum nearly two decades ago. After uncovering compelling new evidence—including an eyewitness who saw the thieves before they entered the museum on the night of the heist—Boser fingers mobster David Turner, once hailed as the Teflon gangster of Boston’s South Shore. Turner is currently serving a 38–year prison term for armed robbery; he has never been charged with the museum theft.

THE GARDNER HEIST moves beyond the Boston museum robbery, and Boser details the growing practice of trading looted paintings for drugs and guns; discusses why only 5 percent of stolen art is ever recovered; and debunks art crime myths such as the idea of an art-loving millionaire who snaps up stolen paintings for his own private collection. In a story of obsession and loss, of art and greed, of mobsters and socialites, THE GARDNER HEIST might be as compelling as the stolen masterpieces themselves.

Ulrich Boser has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Smithsonian, Slate, and many other publications. His work has received various awards and citations; Washingtonian magazine recently named him a “writer to watch.” He has also served as a contributing editor at US News and World Report and as a special projects editor at the Washington Post Express. He is the founding editor of the Open Case, a web magazine and online community devoted to unsolved crimes. For more information about the Gardner case, please visit For more information about Ulrich Boser, please visit
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