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  • Unsolved Case Files: The 500 Million Dollar Heist: Isabella Stewart Gardner and Thirteen Missing Masterpieces (Unsolved Case Files, 3)

Unsolved Case Files: The 500 Million Dollar Heist: Isabella Stewart Gardner and Thirteen Missing Masterpieces (Unsolved Case Files, 3)

Unsolved Case Files: The 500 Million Dollar Heist: Isabella Stewart Gardner and Thirteen Missing Masterpieces (Unsolved Case Files, 3)
Age Range
Release Date
August 30, 2022
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The third book in this graphic nonfiction series about real FBI cases details the Isabella Stewart Gardner heist—the largest, and one of the most famous, art thefts in the world.

MARCH 18, 1990


1:24 a.m.

Two thieves posing as Boston Police officers gain entry to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Once inside, they steal thirteen pieces of art, including several rare Rembrandts.

Eighty-one minutes later, these men walk off with $500 million worth of art. This heist is the single largest private property theft in the United States—and despite decades of investigation and dozens of false leads, the case remains unsolved to this day.

Don’t miss the first two gripping installments in this thrilling series, Unsolved Case Files: Escape at 10,000 Feet and Unsolved Case Files: Jailbreak at Alcatraz.

Editor review

1 review
Greatest Art Heist
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
Perhaps the Gardner Museum, with its deliberately placed, valuable artwork, should have hired professional security guards to watch over the largest privately held collection of art, but in 1990, it must not have seemed that important. After all, they had a new computerized security system, and a well regulated procedural system for monitoring the artwork, but as people who were familiar with the institution at the time thought, it was not IF the museum would be broken into, it was WHEN. This graphic nonfiction book recaps what likely occurred on the night in March 1990 when 500 Million Dollars worth of artwork were grabbed in a theft that is still unsolved.
Good Points
If the police come knocking at the door of your museum to investigate a disturbance, the policy that you don't let them in but contact the precinct to check seems like a good one, but it was not followed. Once the two me in police uniforms were inside, they bound the guards and went around the museum, taking thirteen valuable pieces of art, and not being very careful with them. The next day, it slowly became clear as people came to work that something was not right. The ensuing investigate uncovered some leads, but nothing concrete enough to prosecute. Some people claimed that they had ties to the people who stole it, and for a price could get the art back, but nothing ever panned out.

I was vaguely aware of this occurrence, but learned a lot abou tit by reading this book. Many of my students are fans of true crime podcasts, but it's hard to find books that are appropriate for middle schoolers but are still intriguing. Sullivan does a brilliant job at highlighting historical cases such as Jailbreak at Alcatraz and Escape at 10,000 feet. There are enough details to be interesting, but nothing too violent or gruesome.

The illustration style is very fun; I loved how he was able to include facsimiles of the artwork in with his cut paper collage style photoshopped illustrations. The typewriter font is still appropriate for the 1990s, and gives the pages some additional interest. Reproductions of security system records, maps, and artist portrayals of the perpetrators are an intriguing inclusion.

Fans of Denson's FBI Files and readers who want exciting graphic novel style books will want to check out all of the books in this series. I'll certainly be curious to see what cold case gets the Unsolved Case Files treatment next!
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