(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Theft opens with artist Michael Bones, newly released from prison, discovering that he is to be sent to northern New South Wales to take care of an isolated property belonging to his biggest collector, Jean-Paul Milan, and also to act as caretaker to his slow-witted brother, Hugh Bones. The hope is that Michael will cut down on his drinking, as well as produce some new works. He has lost control of most of his work, as it was deemed to be marital assets during his divorce from his wife, and he was prosecuted for attempting to steal it back.

Michael is not particularly happy to be caring for his brother or to be exiled in Bellingen, let alone to be issued with a long list of maintenance tasks around the house. However, once Milan leaves, the brothers settle into a chaotic day-to-day routine, during which Michael more or less unintentionally vandalizes the house in the cause of his art, which is rather different in its production methods than his patron seems to suppose.

It is at this point that Marlene Leibovitz inadvertently enters the Bones brothers’ lives, when, en route to visit their neighbor, Dozy Boylan, to authenticate a painting by Jacques Leibovitz, she is caught in a flood. Hugh and Marlene immediately establish a rapport, much to Michael’s surprise. He meanwhile is astonished to learn that Boylan owns a painting by Leibovitz, as it was this artist who first inspired him to become an artist. When Marlene returns she...

(The entire section is 592 words.)