David Halifax, a young American painter, accepts a scholarship from the Levasseur Committee for Fine Arts. The scholarship intrigues him, as he had not even put in an application. Eager to begin a three-month study under noted Russian artist Alexander Pankratov, he travels to Paris. Tirelessly determined to refine his skills, Halifax limits his activities to his daily routine of painting.
Halifax sets about sorting through such perplexing matters as the identity of the elusive Committee, dedication of the beautiful nude model, and the stress-ridden instructor’s teaching. He learns that the Committee has recruited three trainees from which a painter will be selected to duplicate masterworks of the Paris museums. The much sought after approval of his painting comes with the announcement that he has been chosen as the forger. The extraordinarily talented Alexander Pankratov will alter these copies to appear as aged masterpieces. The fakes will be bartered off to Hitler’s art dealers and the originals hidden away for safekeeping, thus achieving the Committee’s goal. Constant dread of discovery permeates the novel.
This historical novel is set during the anxious times prior to and during the Nazi occupation of France. I was quickly drawn into a daring scheme to deceive the enemy as the Committee members lived amidst the cruelties of war. This style of writing, which illuminates this wretched part of history so realistically that it left me wondering whether or not someone had actually carried out this scheme, is among the best of today.
In parts The Forger delivers up enough fear, shock and suspense to resemble the writing style of Stephen King. Readers and critics will follow Paul Watkins’ work with a thirst for more.