1925. It has been 15 years since the theft of the Mona Lisa from its perch on a wall at the Louvre. The marquis Eduardo de Valfierno lies on his deathbed as he tells a young reporter a riveting tale of how he plotted that theft.
STEALING MONA LISA is an opulent retelling of the Valfierno myth, with action galore and twists in abundance.
Sometime back, Valfierno was forced to flee Paris in favor of his native Buenos Aires. Well, a con man can set up shop pretty much anywhere, and Buenos Aires could provide him a vast pool of fresh victims. Using the title of marquis will lend him an air of the distinguished gentleman, plus he dresses the part. Looking ever so much the respectable businessman, Valfierno easily catches his marks off-guard. But then again, his clients tend toward the shady side anyway, eager to buy great works of art --- the kind that is never for sale on the legitimate market. Rather than going to the trouble of actually stealing these famous masterpieces, Valfierno prefers to sell copies he commissions specifically for that reason.
When beautiful Julia Conway (appropriately named) tries to scam the master scammer, an amused Valfierno becomes intrigued, ultimately deciding that he can use her unique talents within his ranks. She joins a down-and-out artist and a homeless young man. All goes well for a time, but then their forger dies, and the marquis decides it is time to return to Paris. He quickly sets up shop, employs a rather crotchety street painter, and comes up with his greatest endeavor yet: stealing Mona Lisa.
Valfierno knows that Joshua Hart, a very rich and greedy American, will undoubtedly covet the idea of owning that most famous of paintings, so he sails across the Atlantic to woo Hart’s interest. But business concluded, as he is getting ready to leave New York, Mrs. Hart throws him a curve ball. It could even be said that she shamelessly blackmails him into taking her back to Paris with him. She really left him little choice, although he finds he doesn’t mind her company.
Of course, that means that the stakes have skyrocketed now, for Hart is not just wealthy but also highly possessive and deeply vindictive, with access to more than one unscrupulous thug. And when the news of the theft breaks, the Paris police start scrambling to catch the crooks. With Hart on his tail and the police nipping at his heels, maybe this time Valfierno has painted himself into a corner. Or maybe he has another ace up his sleeve. He always seems to manage to squeeze out of a tight situation. Despite Valfierno’s obvious criminal tendencies, one can’t help but cheer for the scoundrel.
STEALING MONA LISA is an opulent retelling of the Valfierno myth, with action galore and twists in abundance. Employing the great flood of Paris, author Carson Morton takes his readers on a harrowing chase scene in the rushing waters of the Seine as they rage through the narrow streets. Based on real characters and events, the book wraps history, mystery, drama and romance all into one gorgeous novel. Morton is to be congratulated on a story well told.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on August 18, 2011