Joe Knocker’s lucrative career as a rogue art thief who trailed the Antiques Roadshow for over a decade is interrupted by a life-changing encounter with his past. The result, a cross-country trek to make right one of the nation’s wrongs by retrieving a national treasure, leads to a heart attack, a missing body, a kidnapping, a promising romance, a showdown, and a shocking reunion. Interweaving historical fact with psychological insight and colorful characters, The Last Roadshow takes us on an unforgettable redemptive journey.
In Czarnota’s debut mystery novel, we catch a glimpse at the life of Joe Knocker. ‘Everything about him was plain and boring. In a few minutes you would have forgotten you ever saw him. That’s what he counted on.’ Mr Czarnota was kind enough to sit down with us and talk through why Joe Knocker’s ordinary life was so compelling to write about.
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Praise for The Last Roadshow
It’s the Antiques Roadshow’s thirteenth season, and Raoul “Knocker” Reuin is sizing up his mark in Palm Springs — a well-dressed Native American man in a bolo tie, who has just had his 1920s-era John Sloan painting appraised at over $1 million. Knocker’s eyes light up with the expectation of a calculated theft later in the day and a fast $100,000 payday from fencing the purloined painting.
But things go awry for Knocker in this cleverly conceived novel by John Czarnota.
A former mark named Andy Wells tracks Knocker down in a hotel bar and confronts him about the theft two years earlier of his historic — and priceless — Lewis and Clark flag. In exchange for its safe return, however, he says he won’t press charges against Knocker.
The conversation leads to the disclosure of clues about who may now have the flag. All Knocker has to do is find him.
The trail leads back to the East Coast, where Knocker discovers that the art dealer — who has been financing his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife’s rest home care with money from fencing Knocker’s thefts over the years — is missing and presumed dead.
Knocker, however, traces the missing heirloom to the rest home’s chief executive, and he makes ingenious plans to get it back. Along the way, we meet a colorful ensemble cast of characters and learn a great deal about his other Road Show heists.
Does Knocker indeed retrieve the flag and return it to its rightful owner? You’ll just have to read this meticulously researched and well-written book to find out.
Five stars to this first-time novelist. It’s a rare read.
—Don Sloan. Author, The Dark Forces series.
You can find out more about John Czarnota and his upcoming publications here