Format Hardcover
Publication Date 04/11/17
ISBN 9781681773230
Trim Size / Pages 9.3 x 6.4 in / 400

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The Icon Hunter

A Refugee's Quest to Reclaim Her Nation's Stolen Heritage

Tasoula Georgiou Hadjitofi

One woman’s pursuit of justice leads her on a riveting adventure into the world of art trafficking.                   

In this powerful memoir, Tasoula Hadjitofi reveals her perilous journey orchestrating “The Munich Case”—one of the largest European art trafficking stings since WWII. With the Bavarian police in place, the Cypriots on their way, seventy under-cover agents bust into the Munich apartment of a notorious Turkish smuggler suspected of holding looted antiquities. Tasoula places everything on the line to repatriate her country’s sacred treasures, unaware that treachery lies in the shadow of her success. The Icon Hunter is a story torn from the pages of Tasoula's life as she and her Greek Cypriot family lose everything during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Hundreds of ancient Cypriot churches are destroyed, their contents looted and all signs of her Greek Cypriot culture erased as if it never existed. As a refugee, she wants justice. And then fate intervenes in the form of an archbishop and a dubious art dealer in search of redemption. Even as unspeakable personal tragedy strikes, she never gives up her search knowing the special place these antiquities hold in the hearts of Orthodox Christians. These icons are not just masterpieces—they are artistic manifestations of faith and a gate-way to the divine. Using family and faith as her touchstones, Tasoula takes on these “merchants of God” as she navigates the underworld of art trafficking. Tasoula believes this to be her calling, and the Archbishop of Cyprus entrusts her—an ordinary woman, wife, and mother—with the mission. In order to succeed, however, she must place her trust in an art dealer known for his double-dealing. Inspiring and empowering, The Icon Hunter is a gripping story by a remarkable woman that will captivate readers long after the nal page. 

Tasoula Hadjitofi was born in Famagusta, Cyprus. In 1974, she and her family were forced to flee their home due to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and the outbreak of war. Tasoula has served as the Honorary Consul of Cyprus in The Netherlands and while holding this office she spent more than two decades recovering the stolen cultural and religious heritage of her homeland. Her efforts culminated in the 1997 “Munich Case,” one of the largest art trafficking sting operations in European history. She is the founder of Walk Of Truth, a non-governmental organization whose mission is to raise awareness about the importance of preserving cultural heritage in conflict areas.  She lives in the Netherlands with her family.

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Endorsements & Reviews

“Hadjitofi’s journey is endearing, and she brings the plight of the Cypriots into sharper focus. An intimate trek into the venal world of art looting and selling.” Kirkus Reviews
“Tasoula Hadjitofi's life is the stuff of novels, providing perfect material for her memoir.” The Washington Diplomat
“A gripping memoir. Hadjitofi exposes the ‘underworld of art traffickers’ with intricate detail as she documents all the legal loopholes and battles that stand in the way of repatriating stolen artifacts. The book is a powerful and important chronicle of art trafficking and its impact on the lives of those torn apart by war, and Hadjitofi is a caring and exacting storyteller.” Publishers Weekly
The Icon Hunter is not only a quest for justice but for spirituality as well. Tasoula Hadjitofi achieves both. She is truly brave and her work is a shining example to us all that a persevering woman is a force to reckon with. In the age of ISIS and the routine destruction of historic sites, art, and artifacts, Tasoula’s work is timely and an inspiration for all who care to preserve the human legacy of art. I simply cannot wait for this story to be turned into a movie. As a book, it is impossible to put down.” Ayaan Hirsi Ali, New York Times bestselling author of "Infidel" and "Heretic"
“In a memoir that reads like a high-stakes mystery, Cypriot refugee Tasoula Hadjitofi struggles to find her rightful place in the world and to return the religious treasures of her homeland to theirs. Along the way, her compelling personal tale illustrates the devastating cultural, historic, spiritual and moral consequences of illegal art trafficking.” Nicholas Gage, author of 'Eleni' and 'Greek Fire'
“Best suited to readers interested in Cypriot history, high-end art trafficking, and the daunting challenges of protecting cultural heritage in conflict zones.” Library Journal