What happens when you mix a Parisian street orphan, a hot-tempered Spanish forger, a beautiful American pickpocket, an unloved wife, and one priceless painting?
The charming Eduardo de Valfierno makes a very respectable living in Argentina fleecing the nouveau rich - they pay him to steal valuable pieces of art, and Valfierno sells them flawless forgeries instead. But when Eduardo meets the beautiful Mrs. Hart on his latest con, he takes a risk that forces him back to the city he loved and left behind - Paris. There he assembles his team of con artists for their final and most ambitious theft, one that will enable them to leave the game forever: The Mona Lisa.
But when a member of the team turns up missing, and Mr. Hart shows up in Paris, Valfierno and his crew must stay one step ahead of a relentless police inspector, endure a devastating flood, and conquer their own doubts to keep the priceless painting in play - and survive.
Based on the actual theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911, and published on the 100th anniversary of the crime, Stealing Mona Lisa is a sophisticated, engaging caper, complete with a richly imagined group of con artists and a historical mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end.
BUENOS AIRES - 1910
The marquis de Valerno stood tapping the knob handle of his gentleman's cane into the palm of his hand at the foot of the steps of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. His Panama hat shaded his face, and his spotless white suit helped to reflect the sharp South American sun, but he was still uncomfortably warm. He could have chosen to stand at the top of the steps in the shadow of the museum portico, but he always preferred greeting his clients at street level and then walking up with them to the entrance. There was something about ascending the steps together that fostered easy and excited conversation, as if he and his client were embarking on a momentous journey, a journey that would enrich both of them.
He checked his pocket watch: 4:28. Joshua Hart would be punctual. He had amassed his fortune by making sure his trains ran on time. He became one of the richest men in the world by filling those trains with passengers ...
Stealing Mona Lisa - a debut novel that effectively draws from the public's fascination with the underworld - combines elements of both suave manipulation and occasional humor. Like several Hollywood plots, it also aligns with a criminal perspective from the beginning, states its motives plainly, and differs from traditional whodunits that are punctuated by red herrings and that rely on revelations.
(Reviewed by Karen Rigby).
Full Review (905 words).
An early 16th century oil painting by Leonardo da Vinci, The Mona Lisa is believed to have been created between 1503-1507 in Florence (though it is rumored that da Vinci did not actually complete it until 1519, just before his death in France). The painting is probably inspired by Lisa Gherardini, the wife of an Italian merchant. In 2005, a scholar at the University of Heidelberg, Dr. Armin Schlechter, discovered a manuscript containing a marginal note written by a Florentine chancellery official, Agostino Vespucci, which mentions Lisa - helping to confirm the subject's identity as well as the dates of the work.
Portraiture had existed prior to da Vinci's famous painting, but The Mona Lisa stands out for its masterful sense of ...
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