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3.4 out of 5 stars91
3.4 out of 5 stars
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"The Modigliani Scandal," was originally published in the United Kingdom in 1976 by Ken Follett, international bestselling British author, under the pseudonym Zachary Stone. It was republished, with an introduction by its now famous author, in 1985. It's a light-hearted suspense thriller, only novella length, obviously an early effort by the author who would make his name soon afterward with the famous spy thriller Eye of the Needle , (made into a very good movie of the same name). And then The Key to Rebecca, also made into a movie of the same name. Then the writer would make his name again with the extraordinary non-fiction On Wings of Eagles. Then he made his name again in historical fiction in 1989 with the huge hit series, THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH, set in twelfth century England. And now he's moved onto the twentieth century with The CENTURY TRILOGY series. But this early novella-length effort of his has, meanwhile, been found and republished. Though it's doubtful it would have been had he not become such a worldwide publishing phenomenon.

The Modigliani Scandal concerns a legendary "lost masterpiece" by Modigliani, famous and much-loved Italian/Jewish 20th century modern artist - he who drew all those thin, elongated figures. This one is supposedly hidden away somewhere in picturesque Italy. It becomes the ultimate prize for a young art historian whose ambition encroaches on everyone around her, an angry young painter with a plan to revenge himself on the art establishment, and a desperate gallery owner who may have double-crossed his own life away. So they all rent cars and go tramping around picturesque bits of that beautiful Mediterranean country. The art world background lends a little bit of glitz and glamour to the enterprise, and the author shows the ability to portray double-, and triple-crosses that will serve him so well in his future spy novels. The novel can be considered fizzy, glitzy fun, but it's very thin, characters, plot, and all, and very lightweight. It doesn't really do justice to its Italian setting. And too many of its important scenes take place offstage.

There is no central character, but there are quite a few characters, mostly young, all pulling off their own little capers. It is an early showing of his ability to create and manipulate many characters, although, owing to the book's short length, they are rather thin. It is also an early exhibition of Follett's ability to produce a complex plot, although, at the book's novella length, it too is necessarily rather thin. Follett has said, "As a writer I have always had to struggle against a tendency to underwrite.... Consequently the many characters are painted in brisk, bold brushstrokes, and the book lacks the feeling of detailed personal involvement with the private lives of the characters that readers demand of a bestseller." It's a reasonably entertaining little book, but will, I think be best appreciated by the author's fans.
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on 19 February 2000
I am a Ken Follett fan, but I do not recommend this early sample of his writing. A very hard book to read far to many characters. Stick to his latest books all of which have been good reads.
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on 30 January 2012
This is clearly an early book by Follett and a fairly short one by his standards. The story centres on the art world and the attempts to create a forgery which is supposedly a lost Modigliani work. It's a complicated plot which becomes clear towards the end. It's a good story - not one of his best by a mile, but an enjoyable read all the same.
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on 26 October 2007
I love Ken Follets work, and I think a 1 star rating is a little unfair for this book! Of the Ken's I have read this is the worst, BUT it is still a good story and the characters are well defined. If Ken Follet had written only this book and nothing else then this discussion would not be taking place - in it's own right it is A GOOD READ!
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on 11 September 2009
This is a very good read. It is a very early Follett and better than Paper Money. Follett soon perfected his art and starting banging out classics. But I still believe this book is much better than a lot of other authors bests efforts. For me, Follett's best works include The Key to Rebecca, Pillars and The Man from St Petersburg.
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on 18 September 2012
A few years ago on one of our many gite holidays in France, I picked up this book which "belonged" in the gite, a couple of days before the end of the holiday. At the end of the holiday I had only got to about page 80 ( as there were so many other things to see/do). Nonetheless, I had got immersed in what I had read and I remember thinking "Why am I enjoying reading this book, not a lot has happened so far". The answer of course is that even in the early works of Ken Follett, he takes time building substance into his characters, instead of the crash/bang/wallop approach of many modern authors where the action is non-stop but ultimately unbelievable, partly because the characters are so shallow. Needless to say, I was tempted to bring the book home but decided to leave it in the gite and subsequently got it from my local library and finished it at one sitting. This was my first taste of Ken Follett and I have now read many more of his books. They consistently deliver great stories, real characters and events to which the author has devoted considerable time researching his subject.
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on 16 October 2011
I am a fan of Ken Follett's thrillers and have most of his books. This is one that I would never want to reread. The story didn't capture my imagination being much lighter than most of his novels, it wasn't as compelling and I didn't really find the storyline revolving around an art fraud particularly interesting.
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on 6 November 2013
If, like me, you are a fan of Ken Follett you will have to read this book. The theme is a light romp through the author's perception of the art world of the 1970s. There are forgeries, a robbery a mystery and, of course, a missing masterpeice. The story dodges and weaves and eventually comes to a neat, if rather unconvincing, exclusion with no real harm done to anyone. OK, it's only his early work but already Follett displays a hint of the genius that was to come. This book would definitely make the basis of a brilliant TV drama mini series.
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on 14 October 2014
I'm a massive Ken Follett fan but this was a real let down. If this was submitted to a publisher by John Smith it would be rejected quicker than you could say 'slush pile.' I plodded on for a few chapters despite it boring me to tears and sending me to sleep a couple of times and I did it for Ken's sake. The worse kind of publishers cashing in on a name and ripping readers off. Don't waste your money.
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on 17 February 2016
As is normal for Ken Follett, he shows a lot of knowledge of his subject and in this book makes it easy to imagine the shadier side of Art Dealership. More amusing than his usual style, and a little lighter to read, but the same intrigue and excitement.
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