Come for the heist of the Mona Lisa, with its unexpected twists and turns based on real world thievery of Leonardo’s masterpiece and stay for the in-depth look at the insidious world of high rollers engaged in building private art collections of stolen Masters.
In August 1911, Louvre art framer Vincenzo Peruggia stole the Mona Lisa, dropping its frame and glass case on the staircase. It would be recovered in 1913, Vincent would go to jail for the theft, but what ensued become endless scholarly debate as to whether the Mona Lisa had been replaced by a highly skilled forgery.
The novel kicks on in 2019 with Luke Perrone, a painter and university professor vying, who’s the great grandson of Peruggia. Luke’s struggling to make tenure, get an exhibition of his artwork, and in the meantime churning through unfulfilling relationships with women. He also has been obsessed with finding out more about his great grandfather and figuring out if the stolen Mona Lisa had been replaced by a forgery. An unexpected lead to Vincent’s journal has Luke dashing off to the Laurentian library in Florence, Italy.
Dead bodies start to pile up in connection with the journal – from book dealers who handled it to an innocent Franciscan monk. Luke finds himself surrounded by John Smith, an on-the-outs Interpol investigator from their art theft division stalking Luke to see what he finds; gorgeous Alexandra Greene with whom Luke gets romantically entangled but is harboring a secret; a Russian hit man who’s been hired by a powerful private art collector who has a Mona Lisa and wants to know if it’s real.
Meanwhile, Vincent’s story unfolds in parallel to Luke’s, as we read his journal entries and the past comes alive with vibrant characters, a powerful love story, a broker of stolen artwork and a brilliant forger.
It’s a powerful and mesmerizing story, unfolding unexpectedly until the story rises to its thrilling crescendo.
Thanks to Netgalley for an advance reader’s copy.