Archive for July 23rd, 2010


If Layla ever finds herself alone in a room with William Jacques, she would do very, very bad things to him.

446courtroomJacques is a 41-year-old graduate of Cambridge who has been called Britain’s most prolific thief of rare and precious books.  His thefts include first editions by Isaac Newton and Galileo.  Just this month he was convicted in a London court for the second time and sent to prison for three years.

Layla would have given him a lot more than three years’ worth of injuries.

book thief

She’d hurt Jacques not only because he has stolen an estimated 500 extremely rare antiquarian books worth more than £1 million and dating back to 1514, and not only because he devastated the special collections of British leading libraries, thus taking them away from historians and other scholars.  He has also, because of his “arrogance, greed and an obsession with money,” damaged some of those books in order to disguise their origin and sell them more easily, usually to auction houses across Europe..

You hurt irreplaceable antiquities, Layla hurt you.

I don’t think I’ve ever really described in this blog what Layla Daltry does.  Quite simply, she’s a very well paid antiquities hunter, one who loves rare, precious written works and is “addicted to the hunt.”

Here’s a longer explanation:

medieval_libraryAs an expert in manuscripts, books, letters, and just about anything written in Europe from the fall of the late Roman classical period up to the Enlightenment, she could pick and choose her work as a field agent for museums, top auction houses, and well-heeled collectors.  Armed with their names, she gained entrée into the private libraries of great estates.  She could investigate their rare works to track down even more precious, elusive antiquities.  She uncovered the provenance of medieval illuminated manuscripts and informed the museums interested in buying them, or the auction houses that wished to sell them, whether or not they had been stolen or forged…

Of course, Layla carefully concealed from her clients the methods she sometimes used.  She never told them that she often tracked down stolen works by befriending unsavory people with questionable jobs.  Or how she crossed paths with tomb raiders and black marketers and bartered with them for information.  She never let slip how she knew better than to contact the authorities once she learned that this thuggish industrialist or that unscrupulous banker had arranged to have an artifact stolen and now jealously possessed it.

sotheby

The very wealthy know how to get away with anything, hence matters would only get messy if she tipped off Interpol.  Thus she didn’t explain to her clients that, with the help of a former lover, she had developed the skills of the finest cat thief.  Getting into very high upper floors, scampering across rooftops, slipping past holes in security systems – that’s what she was really good at…

So that’s basically what Layla does, and that’s her passion.  Waddya think?

Also, if any of you are writing thrillers or mysteries along a similar vein as The Compass Master, or if you’re just interested in art theft, scams and swindles and high-end auction  houses, I found a great resource.  It’s www.museum-security.org.  Look under the archive for the category of “Auction Houses and stolen objects,” (http://www.museum-security.org/?cat=6) and you’ll find plenty of cool stuff that could inspire an entire novel or screenplay.

Have a cool weekend.