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Download Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures Audiobook, by Robert K. Wittman Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,663 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Robert K. Wittman, John Shiffman Narrator: Mark Deakins Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2010 ISBN: 9780307735867
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In Priceless, Robert K. Wittman, the founder of the FBI’s Art Crime Team, pulls back the curtain on his remarkable career for the first time, offering a real-life international thriller to rival The Thomas Crown Affair.  
 
Rising from humble roots as the son of an antique dealer, Wittman built a twenty-year career that was nothing short of extraordinary. He went undercover, usually unarmed, to catch art thieves, scammers, and black market traders in Paris and Philadelphia, Rio and Santa Fe, Miami and Madrid.
 
In this page-turning memoir, Wittman fascinates with the stories behind his recoveries of priceless art and antiquities: The golden armor of an ancient Peruvian warrior king. The Rodin sculpture that inspired the Impressionist movement. The headdress Geronimo wore at his final Pow-Wow. The rare Civil War battle flag carried into battle by one of the nation’s first African-American regiments.
 
The breadth of Wittman’s exploits is unmatched: He traveled the world to rescue paintings by Rockwell and Rembrandt, Pissarro, Monet and Picasso, often working undercover overseas at the whim of foreign governments. Closer to home, he recovered an original copy of the Bill of Rights and cracked the scam that rocked the PBS series Antiques Roadshow.
 
By the FBI’s accounting, Wittman saved hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art and antiquities. He says the statistic isn’t important. After all, who’s to say what is worth more --a Rembrandt self-portrait or an American flag carried into battle? They're both priceless. 
 
The art thieves and scammers Wittman caught run the gamut from rich to poor, smart to foolish, organized criminals to desperate loners.  The smuggler who brought him a looted 6th-century treasure turned out to be a high-ranking diplomat.  The appraiser who stole countless heirlooms from war heroes’ descendants was a slick, aristocratic con man.  The museum janitor who made off with locks of George Washington's hair just wanted to make a few extra bucks, figuring no one would miss what he’d filched.
 
In his final case, Wittman called on every bit of knowledge and experience in his arsenal to take on his greatest challenge: working undercover to track the vicious criminals behind what might be the most audacious art theft of all. 

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Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kelly | 2/18/2014

    " This book would have been better if it hadn't been so choppy and so obviously written with the intention of being sold for movie rights. The stories had such potential to be great, but the way they were written wasn't. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 G. | 2/16/2014

    " True crime and art, a great combination. A good, conversational history. I only wish they had managed to rescue the Gardner paintings. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kristi | 2/10/2014

    " The content is interesting, even very interesting. The way he tells it is not. Not only is his writing dull, but it drove me crazy that he makes himself out to be the best thing to happen to the FBI since, well, the X-Files. (Personal opinion, of course - not everyone likes the X-Files.) But, seriously, man, bring the ego down a notch. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bobbi | 2/9/2014

    " Loved it! Great story really admirable person Bob Wittman really is priceless. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Debra | 2/7/2014

    " Very well written and interesting look at how stolen art masterpieces are ofter recovered. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Eric | 1/13/2014

    " True crimes against the art world. The author recently retired from the FBI as their top undercover art theft sleuth, and he has lots of stories to tell. He points out that art theft is the #4 biggest sector in the international criminal rankings, after drugs, guns & money (I noted he didn't put any value on human trafficking) and that the romanticism of Hollywood's characterization of art thieves has nothing to do with reality at all, which, somehow, wasn't a big surprise to me at all. He proves once again that truth is stranger than fiction, as his stories are more interesting than anything Hollywood ever puts out, because all the real world ambiguity, loose ends, and politicised accidental clusterfucks that occur when you have big bureaucracies wrangling over turf wars gets in the way of simply getting the job done. A quick read, and enjoyable. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bethany | 12/31/2013

    " Interesting memoir about an FBI agent's work recovering stolen art work and historical artifacts. I enjoyed the combo of crime and arts. I think I would have liked it better had I known more about the artists and paintings and been able to picture the pieces of art in my mind! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amy | 12/30/2013

    " Fascinating memoir of the life of an undercover FBI agent focuses on reclaiming stolen art. I found his stories compelling and exciting. My only complaint is that there are no pictures in the book, at least in the Kindle version. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susan Garboden | 12/28/2013

    " Very entertaining and informative book about art theft. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Heather | 12/16/2013

    " This was very interesting if you are interested in undercover schemes and repossession of stolen art. The writing was a bit stiff but on the other hand his description of the undercover operations was also gripping. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dotty | 12/8/2013

    " Robert Wittman will be in State College to speak on April 7, so I was motivated to read this one. I loved the art connections and the intrigue. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Beth | 12/2/2013

    " I enjoyed this. The tales of undercover operations were entertaining, and I liked reading about the history of the artwork and the museums. Sometimes the procedural parts got dull, but really an interesting book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chris | 11/9/2013

    " Loved the inside stories about art theft. My new secret what I want to be when I grom up job. (Finding it, not stealing it!) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jeff Verthein | 11/5/2013

    " I started this book in March and finished it in August. No, it wasn't difficult. No, it wasn't bad. I just didn't really miss it when I put it down for long stretches of time. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 E.M. Lynley | 4/17/2013

    " Read as part of my research for book 2 in the Rewriting History series! Also used for ITALIAN ICE. Great book for information about how the FBI art squad works and useful tips on how to work undercover. Gave me more ideas for future books. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Robin | 3/25/2013

    " Very interesting non-fiction (with a few tweaks to protect security) that tells about an FBI art investigator. He solved many art heists before twirling from the FBI. I learned a lot about FBI bureaucracy and how it interferes with solving crimes. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Christina | 1/27/2013

    " Not the best-written book I've ever read, but the guy was an FBI agent, not a writer; it was highly entertaining! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chris Zanon | 11/27/2012

    " Pretty decent and full of information. A good vacation from the normal CIA/FBI Action books. Was a fairly quick read as well. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kim Sheehan | 10/30/2012

    " Fast paced true story about one FBI agent's adventure in solving art thefts around the world. He loved his job and that makes for a great story. Wish he had solved the Gardner theft! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Patti | 10/17/2012

    " Well done, shifting memoir by the former FBI art theft expert. His clear and honest stories of various projects, comeplete with backgound on the pieces he was hunting totally engaged me all the way through... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Apallant | 8/23/2012

    " I learned so much about art, art crimes, art thieves and the FBI. It was worth it for that. i got hooked after going to the Isabella Stuart Gardner museum and seeing the places where the stolen paintings were taken from. That theft was incredible (and still unsolved) and is a great story itself. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Phil | 8/13/2012

    " Fascinating. I'll admit, I work in museum security management, so reading this is somewhat of a "busman's holiday." Whitman (with the expert help of his coauthor) tells an entertaining story of his 20 years in the FBI's underfunded, underrecognized art theft unit. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Alyson | 5/7/2012

    " Kent got this from the library and I read it when he was finished. It was an interesting perspective and I learned about art heists I didn't even know had happened. But, there was a bit too much own-horn-tooting, if you know what I mean... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Chris | 5/23/2011

    " Pretty decent and full of information. A good vacation from the normal CIA/FBI Action books. Was a fairly quick read as well. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Diane | 4/14/2011

    " I really enjoyed the inside look at art theft recovery. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Heather | 3/19/2011

    " Reads like a thriller. Great true-life stories of undercover operations that resulted in the rescue of works of art, everything from Rembrandt paintings to Peruvian body armor to an American flag. A true international man of mystery! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nate | 3/15/2011

    " Very good nonfiction about an FBI agent that recovers stolen art. Easy read and interesting story. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michael | 3/12/2011

    " Really good book... really enjoyed it "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sara | 2/20/2011

    " Really really interesting non fiction book about high end art theft. Kept me reading and learning the whole way through. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen | 2/14/2011

    " An FBI agent spends a career undercover rescuing priceless stolen art. Well paced, well writen I'm listening to the audio book and enjoying it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Abigail | 2/2/2011

    " Very interesting read. A little depressing because it looks at how bureaucratic our government agencies are, but the cases were fascinating. It was mostly a feel-good read about rescued irreplaceable pieces of culture. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carol | 2/1/2011

    " I really liked this book especially because a lot of the story took place in the philadelphia area so it made it that much more interesting. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mandy | 1/22/2011

    " This was a quick, fun read. It's about a guy who built up the FBI's art crimes division. He covers the most interesting museum heists in US history and details how they chased the criminals down. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rose | 1/22/2011

    " A fantastic book!!! I learned not about about the life of an undercover detective, but also so much history! A real page turner. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Susan | 1/22/2011

    " Dull. I skipped ahead. A lot. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 G | 1/14/2011

    " THe stories were great.. the writing not stellar, but what do you expect from a former fbi agent. "

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About the Author

Robert K. Wittman created the FBI’s Art Crime Team and was the Bureau’s national expert on cultural property crime. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Priceless. David Kinney is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of The Big One and The Dylanologists.

About the Narrator

Mark Deakins is an actor whose television appearances include Head Case, Star Trek: Voyager, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His film credits include Intervention, Star Trek: Insurrection, and The Devil’s Advocate. He recently wrote, directed, and produced the short film The Smith Interviews.