The Perfect Crime by Larry Maness


A Perfect Crime   

By Larry Maness


Before 11 priceless pieces of art were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a respected Italian violin maker visited the museum to inspect a rare musical instrument requiring restoration. He took measurements and photographs and reported his findings to the museum’s director.

Then, he disappeared.

Was the innocent invitation to the violin maker the first step in a complex plot to rob the Gardner? The museum director thinks so and hires Theo R. Perdoux, an expert in worldwide art theft, to investigate.

Inspired by the actual unsolved robbery of Boston’s Gardner Museum, Maness spins a plausible web that races ahead like a shot. The brisk pace and clever twists offer an intriguing explanation why masterpieces worth millions have never been found.



After the success of The Last Perdoux, Larry Maness is back with a second Theo R. Perdoux mystery/crime which promises to be a captivating blend of real-life events and fictional intrigue. A good mystery makes for compelling reading, and I also like to read books based on true events. It makes the narrative always feel fresh and resonant. For this story, the author has drawn inspiration from the infamous Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum robbery in Boston (MA)

In 1990, 13 works of art were stolen from the collection and still to this day, remain unsolved, although the Museum’s commitment to resolving the crime has never diminished since its occurrence. Right from the first sentence in Chapter One, the hook is there - a real-life event is the starting point that runs into a fictional realm. Immediately, it pulls in the reader, captures the character's voice and carries the style. It is relevant and meaningful, so we know we are going to be immersed in a world of art theft and high-stakes crime. The job of finding the perpetrator(s) of the crime falls to a private investigator. Theo Perdoux (Zachary)

The plot starts months earlier with a guitar held in the private collection of the Gardener Museum in need of repair. Not just any guitar but a priceless ornate guitar made by Jacapo Mosca Cavelli guitar made in the 1720s. (this is true) A well-respected maker of world-class instruments, Aldo Conte, and from a long line of violin makers in Rome, expressed an interest in making those repairs. Shortly after he visited Boston on a visual observation mission in preparation for the restoration, with his assistant Angela Ricci, Aldo Conte disappeared. Museum Director Clair Bowman has some theories of her own and approaches Theo to ask him for help.

“Theo, you have tracked down masterpieces all around the world. I know your business is in finding stolen art, not tracking down missing people but I’m not clutching at straws like the police believe. Aldo Conte is somehow involved in the robbery, and I want to know how. Please look into this before you say no.”

Museum jobs are often inside jobs and the author skilfully weaves in some possible local suspects, like the Garcetti family. If you expect a gritty and realistic portrayal of a mafia family operating in the world of organized crime and the individuals who inhabit it, you are not disappointed. Loyalty, family and justice are key themes in mafia families, and so are the ends its members will go to achieve their goals. Nothing happened in the Boston neighbourhood that the Garcetti’s didn’t know about but Theo’s attempts to find some answers from henchman Nicolo Bianchi and others prove fruitless.

‘“Vincent Garcetti knows something about making people disappear, doesn’t he Nick?” Nick’s fist slammed the table knocking his wine glass to the floor. JoJo, the taller of the two pointed what looked like a Sig Sauer pistol at my chest while Ronnie stepped around the table toward me, his fist pounding into the palm of his open hand.’

There is quite a cast of characters and by connecting the heist to a famous Italian family living in Rome, the novel expands its scope beyond the initial crime, delving into the complexities of family dynamics, international intrigue, and historical connections. This adds depth and richness to the narrative, offering readers a compelling and multifaceted mystery to unravel. Once in Rome, Theo, goes into full detective mode, utilising his well-honed skills of observation, detection, surveillance and interviews. Who and where is the real Aldo Conte? What secrets lie behind the doors of the beautiful Villa Conte and the dysfunctional family? Why was Francesco Vega copying old masters? Is there a connection to a man in Nice who specializes in the theft and resale of stolen art called Niles Huygens? There are many twists and turns in the story to keep you guessing.

I love the descriptions of Rome and I really feel that the author captures the essence of this iconic city. It was hard to find, among so many, a quote to support this.

‘The cobbled streets, the bustling open-air market, the cafes filled with coffee drinkers. All crying out that Rome was not the product of an orderly mind, yet somehow everything fit.’

 Another notable strength lies in the author’s ability to vividly depict the characters and incorporate their idiosyncrasies.

 Sergeant Roberto Filippo of the Polizia di Stato has a tendency to unsuccessfully use colloquial English, and this adds a touch of dry humour.

 “He arranged his life around.’ said Sergeant Filippo. Theo corrects him. ‘Turned his life around.


 Why I recommend this book.

I think it is a tried and tested formula – to write a detective novel that features a private investigator who skilfully gets to the heart of a crime better than the police. Add to the mix, have as your protagonist, a solitary misanthropic figure as in Cormoran Strike by Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling and you have a winning formula.

Legend has it that former Penguin Australia boss Bob Sessions once advised an aspiring crime writer to give his detective something distinctive: Mr Maness has done exactly that and has given his lead character an interesting past. Theo Perdoux aka Theo Zachary.

“I knew nothing of my biological parents until thirteen years ago. Just shy of my forty-fifth birthday and a member of Boston’s Tactical Patrol Force, someone threw a rock the size of a grapefruit from the roof of an apartment building. I was blind in my right eye for two months. When I regained partial use of that eye, I decided to take medically induced early retirement.

He discovers that his mother, a Perdoux, daughter of Claude Perdoux, was an art gallery owner in Paris whose collection was stripped by the Nazis and his father is a German officer charged with stealing the soul of Paris, one art collection at a time. His identity is rationalized almost in a disaffected way. He describes how his past is revealed to him as ‘startling and unsettling news.’

“My mother spent her life tracking down her family’s collection. When she died, I took over.”

I think I liked the character of Theo – his workaholic tendencies, a determination to get to the truth, intolerance of lies and he clearly works from gut instincts. I confess, I never felt I got to know him, but I can forgive that as I really like the author’s approach in blending historical events with fictional storytelling and it certainly delivers a captivating read.

The depth and detailing of this novel deserve a mention. The author provides the reader with a welcome escape and an opportunity to engage with a story that explores the themes of crime and intrigue. This can in turn, offer a unique perspective on the world, prompting reflection on the choices we make and the paths we choose to follow. The vivid setting of 'the eternal city' portrayed in the novel reignites a wanderlust, evoking a longing for travel and exploration.



Larry Maness is the author of two books of plays and six novels (the last of which was published in 2023). 3 Plays was introduced by Pulitzer prize-winner, William Inge. His plays War Rabbit and Bailey both premiered in New York City at The American Theatre of Actors.

His first novel, Nantucket Revenge, is called “The best beach read since Jaws” according to Florida Crime Writers author Steve Glassman. His second novel, A Once Perfect Place, is included in the Literature of Social Change collection at Duke University. Strangler, his third novel featuring Private Investigator Jake Eaton, is a Detective Book Club selection. The Voice of God, his fourth novel, is called by Rosemary Herbert, author of The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing,

Maness lives on the south shore of Massachusetts with his wife, Marianne, known as “The Cookie Lady” in some parts of the world.


Speaking Volumes (Aug. 2023)



The Last Perdoux

Nantucket Revenge

The Voice of God


A Once Perfect Place





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