Fake It Till You Make It
In her newest thriller, FAKE (Harper, 02/22/2022), author Erica Katz delves into the fine art world of priceless paintings, premier art galleries, felony fraud, and a painter desperately trying to find her place.
Twenty-six-year-old Emma Caan learned from her professor at Yale that her paintings were unexceptional—technically superior but emotionally detached. Adding to that disappointment, she received no answer from the art gallery she’d submitted her portfolio to. It appears her work is not passionate enough, so she takes a job at Gemini Reproductions, using her “technically superior” skills to copy the most famous paintings of the masters.
Emma knows copying isn’t the same as forging. It’s more like making a print to display while the original priceless piece remains safe in a vault or museum or freeport holding area. And she always, always signs her name on the back, with a note that it’s a copy.
Emma’s talent as a painter who can replicate the masters is well known; she just can’t seem to find enough passion to infuse into her own art. She’s been working at Gemini for years, accepting her belief that this is the closest she’ll come to painting great art. Yes, she’s thankful for the job that lets her use her skills and be in the presence of famous paintings, but it had also “lulled her into complacency, sucked out her inspiration.” She is a “parasite to the host creativity of others.” The painting she’d just copied for Russian billionaire Lenny Sobetsky sold at Sotheby’s for $137 million.
When Lenny invites her to a party filled with the art-world elite and introduces her to Florence Wake, the owner of one of the most famous art galleries in the world, Emma is impressed. Soon, she is Assistant Director of the Florence Wake Gallery, and Lenny’s private “copier.” Emma revels in being cocooned in the high-end art world, including a gorgeous SoHo apartment provided by Lenny.
But there’s something odd about Lenny’s private collection.
When Emma realizes things aren’t what they seem, her life might just implode before she can figure out how to navigate the mine-field that is her new existence.
“The life I had been leading since that first night at Lenny’s was not my own. I couldn’t afford it if I worked one hundred lifetimes. It was pretend, make-believe. Fake.”
This story is a fast-paced look into the world of fine art, with a suspenseful twist. An answer to the question, “What would you do to have the life you’ve always wanted?”
The Art of Storytelling:
Katz takes readers into the head of professional nineteenth-century painting copier Emma Caan. Written in first person, we become intimately invested in Emma’s hopes and dreams, and her unfulfilled goals as an artist.
The book begins with the transcript of an FBI interview with Emma and includes interview transcripts throughout, increasing the tension because we know that someone has committed a multi-million-dollar crime, or several.
Then into this elite world, Katz adds-in the trauma from Emma’s youth, catapulting us into the mind of a vulnerable, but talented, young woman trying to come to terms with both her past and her future.
Erica Katz is the author’s pseudonym. She’s an attorney at a large law firm in New York City. Her first novel, The Boys’ Club, portrayed a female lawyer’s fight against the patriarchy of male-dominated high-stakes law.
What I Liked Best:
I loved the unusual subject of the novel—a painter copying masterpieces for their owners. The possibility of this practice being used to defraud people for hundreds of millions of dollars makes us consider that sometimes the line between ethical practices and greedy ambition blurs.
The seduction of living a privileged life instead of surviving paycheck-to-paycheck is brought to the forefront. How far would we go to improve our lifestyle, and how soon would we realize that we’d crossed a line?
Readers who revel in seductive temptation will love this artistic thriller.
You can also read this review at BookTrib.