Stealing Mona Lisa
Review: Carson Morton imaginatively incorporates historical figures into a creative storyline — or possibly more accurately wraps a creative storyline around real people — in the stand-alone mystery Stealing Mona Lisa.
1910, Buenos Aires. Eduardo, the marquis de Valfierno, has a well-earned, indeed well-deserved, reputation for supplying the very rich with stolen masterpieces for their private collections. That these paintings are brilliant forgeries is a fact known only to him and the small group of craftsmen in his employ. He plays the greed of one off the purported embarrassment of the other — the museums have copies on hand just in case, or so he tells his buyers — to achieve the illusion that he is delivering the real thing. When Eduardo's master forger dies, he is in need of a replacement and heads to Paris to find him. The man he hires happens to be an expert at painting La Joconde, the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Taking advantage of this talent, he devises a scheme that will net him a small fortune — if he can pull it off — and allow him to retire in the manner to which he has become accustomed.
Stealing Mona Lisa is a quite exciting crime caper up to the point where the Mona Lisa is stolen. The planning and execution of the theft is handled very well and is thrilling to follow. But after it takes place, the plot seems to lose its way and lacks focus, and doesn't exhibit much of the charm that was previously so much in abundance. There are possibly two problems here. The most significant one is that the follow-up to the crime is mentioned only in passing, the storyline changing to an improbable and really rather uninteresting romantic relationship between Eduardo and the wife of one of his clients. The second one is that the author tends to rely too much on historical fact at this point, rendering the narrative somewhat dry and academic. It returns to form in the final chapters, and ends on a somewhat theatrical note — another illusion, if you will — consistent with the first half of the book. Overall, an entertaining mystery but one that could have benefited from staying the course with the primary storyline and leaving out much of the will he/won't she-type interplay that weighs down the second half.
Acknowledgment: Minotaur Books provided a copy of Stealing Mona Lisa for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Stealing Mona Lisa: Buenos Aires, Argentina; Paris, France; New York; Italy
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Stealing Mona Lisa by Carson Morton
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: August 2011
List Price: $25.99