Vermeer, Goya, Rembrant, Rubens - the Beit art collection was worth millions. For twenty-two years, Sir Alfred and Lady Beit lived peacefully at Russborough, the remote stately home near the Wicklow Mountains that housed their glorious paintings. Then, one spring evening in 1974, the 33-year-old British heiress Rose Dugdale, who had espoused the Irish cause, thought it a good idea to raid Russborough to raise funds for the IRA. She and her gang made off with nineteen paintings, including Vermeer's exquisite Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid. She was quickly tracked down by the diligent Garda and the paintings recovered. But her daring had alerted other criminals to a sitting duck. In 1986 the Dublin gangster Martin Cahill - a criminal so renowned for his tactics they called him 'The General' - planned an audacious burglary of Russborough. He esaped by the skin of his teeth with eighteen masterpieces including, once again, the Vermeer. The rolled canvases were buried in the Wicklow Mountains. However, these beautiful and mysterious paintings were to be the downfall of a criminal who had taunted the Garda for years. The challenge of disposing of such famous works of art forced Cahill to reach outside his familiar world into the international arena, and when he did, his pursuers were waiting. With the storytelling skill of a novelist and the nose of a detective, Matthew Hart uncovers the devious activities of the burglars, fences, art detectives and undercover agents involved in the theft and recovery of Sir Alfred's priceless collection. With pace and panache, he shows how art theft has changed in recent years, with famous masterpieces acting as collateral among the drug and arms barons. But there is a happy ending: when the stolen paintings were finally recovered, the process of restoring them led to a remarkable discovery about the way Vermeer achieved his magical perspectives, enriching for ever the way we see his art.