THE GILDED SEAL is the third Tom Kirk book by James Twining. Tom is a former art thief - his nickname was Felix, turned investigator. He runs a small firm with long time friend (with a similarly dodgy background) Archie, and they are often called in to help investigate art thefts - who better than an insider to understand the mind of the art thief!
In a foreword to the book the author notes that the novel was inspired by the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911 and its eventual recovery in 1913. THE GILDED SEAL charges along balancing really well between events that just seem all too possible and realistic; alongside some frankly lunatic goings on that, to start off with, you just couldn't image could ever happen. But the realistic aspects can make the reader wonder, just possibly, if all of this could maybe really happen - and that's got to be the sign of a good thriller. That edgy balancing act between the thrill and the possible - the inconceivable - just maybe being conceivable.
There are other necessary elements of the thriller in THE GILDED SEAL. The flawed, super-human / soft in the centre hard man, prepared to put himself on the line to win the prize / get the girl / find the painting / avenge his friend / outsmart the baddies. There's also a super-human, cunning, rich and ruthless villain. There's the good girl from the FBI - less of a damsel in distress and more of a player by the end of the book; and there is a damsel in distress - with a twist.
The action is fast paced, the story lines are interesting and possible. The book moves around in location a lot and each short chapter is headed with a location, date and time - just to help give the whole thing a feeling of wide ranging impact.
There's a reasonable cast of supporting characters - good guys and the bad guys, the pace holds up incredibly well (as you'd expect in a good thriller), but at the same time there are good touches of place that move you from hot dry Spain, to cold New York, to almost Gothic France from Scotland.
All in all this was a great fun book - hugely entertaining - a real good old fashioned goodies versus baddies versus pick the real baddies thriller. I haven't read the first two books and apart from some obvious back history between Tom and some of the female characters in this book, you're not going to be missing out on much by reading this one on it's own. Having said that, I'm now looking forward to getting the first two books in the series to try them out as well.