He was a ponytailed Japanese wrestler-turned-fence, on kidney dialysis; she was a grave and grey-haired curator-scholar with an impish smile… Art Crimes told the story of Anne Roever-Kann of Bremen Museum, and how (with the help of New York art detective Bonnie Goldblatt) she recovered 12 drawings, including Durer’s 1494 Women in a Bathhouse: they’d been looted from Bremen – though not as part of Stalin’s reparations programme – by Russian soldiers in WW2, and vanished. In the late 90s a local Azerbaijani reporter says the Durer’s in the basement of the Baku Museum – but just as Roever-Kann began investigating, it’s stolen, and vanishes again. Then Koga, the mystery Japanese middleman, contacts her from Tokyo, and flies to Bremen – without the drawings, which he had photos of – to cut a deal. His minder and translator is an angry little man called Ogo, who hinders more than he helps: negotations collapse, and Ogo and Koga vanished. But now it seems the drawings are in New York, in Brighton Beach, “Little Odessa” – and Roever-Kann is there too, wearing a wire and arguing with Ogo again, surrounded (possibly) by Russian mafia enforcers. Ogo smells a rat and vanishes; Koga with his terrible English and halting charm shows Roever-Kann the Durer for real – he carries it in a jiffybag – and the police swoop. She has her prize; he has nothing – not even his health, and he dies before coming to trial.

“Like Robert Ludlum” said this report at the time, but really it’s more like early Eric Ambler, all these ambiguous, semi-stateless figures roving across borders in the chaos of collapsed Empires, carrying priceless treasures in brown envelopes – except of course it’s the Soviet Empire not the Ottoman Empire (there’s a shadowy Russian Olympic medallist and his bottle-blonde wife in this tale, too: she gets jailtime, he’s still on the lam). Roever-Kann herself is fascinating – a quiet-spoken librarian type, except clearly as brave as she’s dogged, and equally clearly in love with anyone fascinated in art, even criminals: “Good art always survives – it finds friends, it finds fanatics. Koga was a bit fanatic… but so were we.” And she gives her funny shy little laugh.

One odd thing: the real Roever-Kann is slim and dapper, careful of movement – and we see a lot of her, it’s her story. In the reconstructions she’s played by an energetic, fat, jolly little woman, with shortish grey hair, yes, but really no other resemblance.