The Last Mona Lisa by Jonathan Santlofer
For both art lovers and mystery fans, The Last Mona Lisa is a compelling read that follows the decades-old tale of a man who once stole the world’s most famous painting.
About the book:
August, 1911: The Mona Lisa is stolen by Vincent Peruggia. Exactly what happens in the two years before its recovery is a mystery. Many replicas of the Mona Lisa exist, and more than one historian has wondered if the painting now returned to the Louvre is a fake, switched in 1911.
Present day: Art professor Luke Perrone digs for the truth behind his most famous ancestor: Peruggia. His search attracts an Interpol detective with something to prove and an unfamiliar but curiously helpful woman. Soon, Luke tumbles deep into the world of art and forgery, a land of obsession and danger.
A gripping novel exploring the Mona Lisa’s very real theft in 1911 and the present underbelly of the art world, The Last Mona Lisa is a suspenseful tale, tapping into our universal fascination with da Vinci’s enigma, why people are driven to possess certain works of art, and our fascination with the authentic and the fake.
This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This advanced reader’s copy was received courtesy of the publisher, Sourcebooks. As always, all opinions are entirely my own!
I received The Last Mona Lisa a couple of months ago, as an advance copy from the publisher. (Thank you!) It sat on my shelf for several weeks as I finished up a few other books that were scheduled to be published first.
But I couldn’t take my eyes off this one. The deep blue cover called to me — a piece of art, in and of itself. And the plot? An art theft based on real life? A recovered masterpiece that could be nothing more than a forgery? Enough said. I was hooked from the start!
This novel follows the great-grandson of a thief. Captivated by his family member’s crime, art professor, Luke, travels to Italy to uncover a long-lost journal. As he hunts for answers, Luke meets various characters who have also been eagerly following his research. But can he find the truth? And will the art world believe him if he does?
The Last Mona Lisa was a thoroughly enjoyable read for me. As a thriller, it was definitely a slow burn compared to a quick read. But it was utterly compelling in its slow unfurling of drama. The chapters are short and snappy, and Santlofer has a very direct writing style that’s easy to read.
It was also very clear that the author is an art lover. There was a ton of historical facts and art tidbits thrown into the conversation. This was fun for me as it’s a subject that I find interesting but honestly, don’t know a lot about. And what better place to set an art thriller (is that a genre?) than in Italy!
My one minor critique was with the characters. While I appreciated the story, I didn’t feel like I was able to connect with Luke and/or Alex as deeply as I’d wanted to. The book didn’t hit the emotional level that I was hoping for. Fortunately, the plot was action-packed and intriuging enough that I didn’t feel I was missing too much by this slight-disconnect from Luke’s character.
All in all, I found it to be a solid story filled with art, action, and a decades-old mystery. A great blend of historical fiction and thriller, I’d recommend this novel to all the art-lovers out there!