Follow The Falcon
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by Steve Kendall
Description: The Falcon has a problem: He's desperate to sell the twelve paintings he stole twelve years earlier from Gladstone, an art museum. The $350-million heist was the biggest in U.S. history--so big there's a $6-million reward for the paintings' return. Brooke Lancaster also has a problem: She's desperate to do what she loves--paint. But until she has some financial security, she can't quit her two jobs to find out if she can make a living as a painter. The Falcon needs a buyer. Brooke needs a windfall. Suddenly, there's hope for both. The Falcon gets an offer from a mysterious Frenchman. Brooke gets hope from a dying man's last words. With that, Follow The Falcon soars from a chateau-like museum outside Boston to the winding roads of the Cote d'Azur, from the dunes of Cape Cod to Thoreau's ancient grave. Brooke pursues a dream while thieves, Mafia goons and unscrupulous art aficionados pursue her. At stake: fortune, freedom and twelve masterpieces.
eBook Publisher: Club Lighthouse Publishing USA LLC/Club Lighthouse Publishing, 2010 2010
eBookwise Release Date: May 2010
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [640 KB]
Reading time: 389-545 min.
To those in the know, it is simply Gladstone. But most don't know.
When the very first visitor called Louisa Gladstone's art museum "the Gladstone," the forty-two-year-old textile industry heiress rebuked him with words that she'd repeat, without change, daily until her death. "You may call it 'the Gladstone Museum' or you may call it simply 'Gladstone,'" she'd say. "But it is not 'the Gladstone.' Do you think the French call their chateau 'the Versailles'?"
Louisa's concern aside, the name has never been the big challenge for Gladstone. It is a matter of attention.
Outside the city, and beyond the art world cognoscenti, Gladstone is largely unknown. Its permanent collection is small by world-class standards: just 534 pieces. Its location, twenty-four miles west of Boston in tiny Dorset, is just beyond the city's cultural scene. Its advertising budget is miniscule compared to the Museum of Fine Arts'. And it has none of the buzz of the Institute of Contemporary Art, whose new home cantilevers boldly over Boston harbour.
To the uninitiated, Gladstone seems to have nothing.
All it has is forty-six acres of rolling hills, pine forest, clear streams, manicured lawns, perennial gardens and winding paths overlooking a pond ringed with bulrushes and water lilies.
All it has is one of America's only true chateau--a building so French, so Renaissance, so Catherine de Medici, that apparently a very large helicopter dropped into the Loire Valley after dark, hooked a chimney, and lifted an architectural gem up and away to Massachusetts.
All it has is a diverse collection of paintings by masters old and new--van Gogh, Rembrandt, Renoir, Rubens, Picasso, Magritte, Cezanne--and twenty-eight monumental sculptures, all contemporary, that stand on the grass midst azaleas and mountain laurel.
When Louisa commissioned her museum in 1898, she gave her architect, Francois Moreau, a brief instruction: "I want a chateau that has humanity." That oxymoron would have defeated a lesser man. But Moreau knew chateaux; better yet, he loved them. He was a direct descendent of Jules Hardouin Mansart, the last, and most important, of Versailles' architects. Moreau was born two centuries too late to study at Mansart's knee, but the genes were strong. He pored over his relative's memoirs and drawings.
Louisa Gladstone did want her museum to have the bones of a classic chateau. Moreau made sure Gladstone smacks of strength and wealth. But it is neither Chambord nor Versailles. It isn't imposing and it isn't opulent.
Indeed, Gladstone is filled with humanity. Horizontal runs of polished red or black granite break up expanses of rough, grey block. Glass, more glass than seems possible in an art museum, dots the walls in almost playful patterns. Walls climb a story or two and then intersect roofs of every shape and angle, only to climb again before being capped not just by grey slate, but by red, pink, black and blue. Cylindrical bastion towers pop up seemingly at random, some only one story tall, each unlike the others. Balconies just large enough for a small tea party show off wrought-iron railings adorned not with royal crests, but gold doves. Below, the entry bridge doesn't cross a wide moat or river, but rather, it spans a trickling stream.
Inside, Moreau again took the best of classic chateau design and made it his own. Much of the typical chateau's stone, tile and concrete gives way to wood; the symmetrical room layout so worshipped by the French has been replaced by a joyful maze of galleries; window coverings, traditionally heavy draperies, are nonexistent.
Yet Moreau was as much a design imitator as an innovator. From Chambord, he stole DaVinci's ingenious double-helix staircase, placing it not in the center of the structure as in France, but just inside the main door, and crafting it not of stone, but of exquisitely crafted cherry wood. From Amboise, he mimicked the magnificent caissons on the ceilings--again, building them not from concrete, but from maple, and substituting, on the keys, carvings of great artists for the traditional fruit and flowers. And from Chenonceau, Moreau lifted the idea of a great ballroom, not configured as a long hall but as a round gallery.
Finally, on the walls of this amazing building, and across its forty-six acres, was placed some of the world's great art--Louisa's own amazing collection. It is eclectic and, some would say, disjointed. To be sure, it has little depth. But few museums can match Gladstone, piece for piece, in its quality. Very little inside or out is second-rate.
Louisa Gladstone was so pleased with Moreau's work that she immediately gave him two more directives: "Build a cottage for me on the grounds," she said. "Then marry me." Moreau did both.
Four years later, they had a daughter. Moreau loved her deeply. Louisa loved art. They both loved Gladstone.
From the beginning, Gladstone didn't draw tourists like the Louvre or press coverage like Bilbao. But it did what few buildings, much less institutions, could do: It transported people. In time. In place. And, most of all, in spirit.
Art lovers immediately fell in love with it.
It took much longer, but thieves did, too.