Gruber's books just amaze me. He has an uncanny gift for getting to the emotional heart of the underlying culture or setting of his stories. Tropic of Night dealt with field anthropology, Santeria/Yoruba folk religion and magic; The Good Son was set largely among the Pashtun people of Afghanistan and Pakistan; now The Forgery of Venus explores the mind of the artist, all of these widely varied settings developed in an believable and detailed manner.
Charles Wilmot Jr. ("Chaz") is an unbelievably talented artist, a traditional "easel" painter, and he refuses to bend to current trends in order to achieve gallery success. Instead, he gets by by doing commercial art - mainly magazine illustration - using the techniques of the old masters as he does so. His gallery owner ex-wife is enormously frustrated by what she sees as his stubbornness in this area, a major cause of their divorce.
When an old classmate contacts him about participating in a drug trial for a compound that enhances creativity, he quickly agrees for the chance for some quick money. The result is puzzling and sometimes terrifying, for while his work is given a jump start, he begins to experience virtual time-travel, reliving past incidents from his own life, and later apparently from the life of 17th century painter Diego Velazquez. As the visions continue, Chaz grows increasingly incapable of determining what is real and what is delusion or hallucination.
When he is taken to meet a wealthy and corrupt art dealer with ties to the Nazi looting of Europe's art treasures and promised not only financial rewards, but access to the medical care his son needs (a lung transplant), he falls into the shadowy world of art forgery, from which he may not escape with his sanity intact, or even his life.