K is for Kleptomania

By definition, a kleptomaniac is someone with a compulsion to steal, usually regardless of an item’s value. People suffering from this mental state generally do not profit from their actions; some hide or secretly return the item they’ve stolen. But this does not always make for great drama (though I can remember an old Natalie Wood comedy that depicted the title character, Penelope, with such a compulsion), so we’re going to widen the net and take a look at a few books that highlight some more intriguing thefts.



Burglars Can’t Be Choosers – Lawrence Block

  • Hired to perform a seemingly simple break-in, Bernie Rhodenbarr is horrified when he takes the fall for a murder rap and is forced to flee, and stationed in an out-of-town apartment, he tries to discover why he was set up. (First in series.)

The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam – Chris Ewan

  • A novelist who moonlights as a thief for hire, Charlie Howard is suspicious when an enigmatic American offers to pay him to steal two small monkey figurines, a suspicion that becomes all-too-real when his employer is nearly beaten to death. (First in series.)

Something Missing – Matthew Dicks

  • A career criminal with OCD tendencies and a savant-like genius for bringing order to his crime scenes, Martin considers himself one of the best in the business. Of course, he only takes items that will go unnoticed by the homeowners. Even though he hasnever met these homewoners, he’s spent hours in their houses, looking through their photo albums and reading their journals. He’s developed a friendship of sorts with them, and accordingly he decides to intervene though it means breaking many of his twitchy, neurotic rules.

The Thieves of Heaven – Richard Doetsch

  • When master thief Michael St. Pierre steals two priceless antique keys–which supposedly protect the secret of salvation–from Vatican vaults, he unwittingly sets in motion a deadly plot that brings him face to face with an insidious enemy and sends him running for his life. (First in series.)



The Barefoot Bandit: The True Tale of Colton Harris-Moore, New American Outlaw – Bob Friel

  • Relates the story of professional thief Colton Harris-Moore, a neglected child who eluded authorities, gained a cult following, and used self-taught knowledge and skills to pilot stolen planes.

The Bobbed Haired Bandit: A True Story of Crime and Celebrity in 1920s New York – Stephen Duncombe

  • Describes the 1924 crime spree of female armed robber Celia Cooney, a poor, Brooklyn waitress who held up a series of local grocery stores armed with a small gun and wearing a fashionable bobbed hairdo and stylish fur coat, and reveals how politicians and journalists used her story as a cultural, social, and political statement of the times.

Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art – Joshua Knelman

  • Tells the story of the five years he spent investigating the world of stolen art and the people and agencies who try to recover it.

The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime – Miles Harvey

  • Explores the unusual odyssey of Gilbert Joseph Bland, Jr., an antiques dealer from South Florida, who stole dozens of centuries-old maps from some of the most important research libraries in Canada and the U.S.

King of Heists: The Sensational Bank Robbery of 1878 that Shocked America – J. North Conway

  • Examines how criminal mastermind George Leonidas Leslie planned and executed a bank robbery at the Manhattan Savings Institution in 1878 and stole nearly three million dollars in cash and securities.

The Man Who Loved Books too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession – Allison Hoover Bartlett

  • In telling the true story of book thief John Charles Gilkey and the man who was driven to capture him, journalist Allison Hoover Bartlett explores the larger history of book passion, collection, and theft through the ages.

The Monuments Men: Allied Heros, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History – Robert M. Edsel

  • The previously untold story of a little-known WWII Allied division whose mission was to track down European art and treasures that had been looted by the Nazis at Hitler’s command.

Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures – Robert K. Wittman

  • The creator of the FBI’s Art Crime Team recounts his dramatic career, describing high-stakes undercover missions involving valuable stolen antiquities, in an account that covers his role in a famous unsolved crime.

The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece – Edward Dolnick

  • Traces the theft of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” from Oslo’s National Gallery in 1994, recounting the efforts of art detective Charley Hill to recover the painting in an investigation ranging from the estates of aristocrats to the art underworld.

Sex on the Moon: The Amazing Story Behind the Most Audacious Heist in History – Ben Mezrich

  • Draws on court records, FBI transcripts, NASA documents, and first-person interviews to reconstruct NASA fellow Thad Roberts’ theft of invaluable moon rocks, offering insight into Roberts’ personality and the nature of his accomplices.

The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios – Eric Rasmussen

  • In his efforts to catalog all these precious First Folios, renowned Shakespeare scholar Eric Rasmussen embarked on a riveting journey around the globe, involving run-ins with heavilytattooed criminal street gangs in Tokyo, bizarre visits with eccentric, reclusive billionaires, and intense battles of wills with secretive librarians.

Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists – Anthony M. Amore and Tom Mashberg

  • Through thefts around the world–from Stockholm to Boston, Worcester to Ohio–the authors track daring entries into and escapes from the world’s most renowned museums, and robbers who coolly walk offwith multimillion dollar paintings.

Thieves of Baghdad: One Marine’s Passion for Ancient Civilizations and the Journey to Recover the World’s Greatest Stolen Treasures –  Matthew Bogdanos

  • Relates the events that led up to the investigation and recovery of stolen artifacts in Baghdad, offering a look at the underbelly of the international art and antiquities market.

Thieves of Book Row: New York’s Most Notorious Rare Book Ring and the Man Who Stopped It – Travis McDade

  • Provides information on a Depression era theft ring that targeted rare books and the detective that eventually brought them down.

Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa – R.A. Scotti

  • Reopens the case of one of the most perplexing art thefts ever committed–the still unsolved mystery of the disappearance of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” from the Louvre on August 21, 1911.


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