Review: The theft of a fresco leads to a tension-filled yarn

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This cover image released by Dutton shows “Fool Me Twice” by Jeff Lindsay. (Dutton via AP)

“Fool Me Twice,” by Jeff Lindsay (Dutton)

Riley Wolfe has surely met his match in “Fool Me Twice,” the second novel in Jeff Lindsay’s series about the self-proclaimed world’s greatest thief.

This time, his target is Raphael’s “The Liberation of St. Peter.” The priceless work of art is a fresco. A fresco doesn’t hang on a wall. It is part of a wall, the paint embedded in the plaster. The wall in question, part of the Apostolic Palace, is more than 18 feet long. And the palace is located in one of the most heavily guarded places in the world — the Vatican.

In “Just Watch Me” (2019), a caper novel on steroids, Wolfe was introduced as a man who gets his kicks committing robberies that no one else would dare to contemplate, his preferred victims the smug super-rich whom he despises as leeches. To Wolfe, the Vatican job qualifies on both counts, but it is clearly impossible.

Nevertheless, failure is not an option.

Possessing the fresco is the fondest desire of Patrick Boniface, “an arms dealer who scares the crap out of other arms dealers.” And Boniface, who lives on a seemingly impregnable fortress in the middle of the Indian Ocean, will torture and kill Wolfe if he doesn’t deliver.

To make matters worse, a rival arms dealer, Bailey Stone, gets wind of this. He threatens to kill Wolfe’s art-forger love interest, unless Wolfe betrays Boniface and sets him up for assassination.

The result is a well-written, complex, tension-filled yarn that includes a terrifying psychopath named Bernadette, an FBI special agent named Frank Delgado who has been on Wolfe’s trail for years, and a military assault by a combined FBI and French special forces task force.

The story is darker and more violent than the first novel in the series, but darkness is familiar territory for Lindsay, who authored the Dexter Morgan serial killer novels on which the popular Showtime TV series was based.

Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”

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