In this, his first novel, Robert Metzger has achieved an intriguing work -- an 'autobiography' of a celebrated society portraitist who, incidentally, happens to be the most celebrated art forger of the twentieth century. Set in New York City, and spanning the period from the mid-fifties to the eighties, the story centres around the forgery and marketing of a series of paintings by an Impressionist 'master', Jean-Jacques Caillou (1839-1870), unknown before his discovery by the forger. The forger, Jack Birnbaum, is driven by his resentment at not being recognised in his own right as a painter of significant stature, and by his belief that he is fulfilling, in a manner of speaking, the promise of the painter Caillou, who died too young. As Birnbaum reflects on his own life, a recurrent theme is the mythology of 'calling' or 'lifework'. An intelligent and acute observer of others, and not without significant self-knowledge, Birnbaum realises how the Caillou forgeries fit into his own life as a substitute fulfillment.
Robert S Metzger