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In the last days of World War II, a thousand year-old trove of artworks and manuscripts, worth $200 million, disappeared from a mineshaft in Germany. Among the missing items were the world-famous Samuhel Gospels, a spectacular gold, silver and jewel encrusted ninth-century manuscript given to the Quedlinburg cloister by Germany's first King and hidden away by Heinrich Himmler in the last days of the Reich.
Forty-five years later, in an odyssey that stretched from the insular New York art world, to the quaint medieval town of Quedlinburg in central Germany, to a desolate Texas ghost town, New York Times reporter William Honan uncovered the clues that cracked the biggest and longest unsolved art theft of the century. Now he tells the complete story of how he tracked the thief--a compulsive kleptomaniac American G.I.--along a trail that had grown cold after almost half a century, leading him to the lost art in a small Texas farm town. It is a detective story filled with thrills, chills and laughs; a real-life mystery about the desperate search for the lost treasure, and the scores of art dealers, collectors, lawyers and officials all too easily corrupted by contact with it. At the end of World War II, as Nazis were rounded up and detained by occupational forces and small towns across Europe were bursting to the seams with Allied personnel assigned to mop-up duties, an ancient treasure-trove somehow managed to vanish from a heavily guarded cave outside of Quedlinburg, Germany. This was "treasure" in the authentic sense of the word: religious manuscripts and other artifacts so extremely valuable that no one could even offer an estimate of their potential worth. Almost 50 years later, one of these treasures turned up, sold to the West German government by a private interest in the United States. This is where William Honan picks up the story in Treasure Hunt, and the point at which Honan not only began covering the story but became a part of it. Honan, a former newspaper editor who was then working as a reporter for the New York Times, became one of the central figures in the story, a supersleuth on the trail of international art criminals. His own investigation makes for gripping reading as he unravels mystery after mystery, bringing him to a small, ramshackle Texas town where some of the most valuable art objects in the world had secretly resided for decades.
Honan spins a fast-paced yarn, and he fears for his life as friends and employees of the main suspect attempt to knock him off the scent. Honan's quirky sense of humor helps: his anti-Texas tirades may not win him many friends in the Land of the Yellow Rose, but they add levity to a case that reeks of sheer audacity and overwhelming greed. --Tjames Madison