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The Lost Van Gogh


The Lost Van Gogh

Who doesn't love a book that keeps you up well past your bedtime because you MUST get to the end? Jonathan Santlofer’s THE LOST VAN GOGH is one of those burn-the-midnight-oil novels. It’s a whodunit and a whydunit.

A simple black-and-white painting of a woman's face bought in an upstate New York antique store leads the reader through a story of intrigue set in the high-end art world. When art student Alexis Verde brings the portrait home to her partner, artist Luke Perrone, they soon discover that underneath the two-toned visage may be one of the greatest pieces of all time.

"For mystery lovers, the pace, the anonymous characters and the interspersed background histories all add up to a fun and thrilling read."

Flashback to the 1940s. The Nazis are looting art from the homes of their victims, stockpiling it for a museum that Hitler plans to build. Among these items is an unsigned black-and-white painting that a German officer gifts to a secretary, thinking it insignificant.

Step back even further in time to Van Gogh's funeral, where it is rumored that two self-portraits were on display. One disappears, forever lost to rumors of its whereabouts.

You can probably see where this is going. And we learn very quickly that a painting --- perhaps by Van Gogh --- lies beneath the unassuming portrait that Alex brought home. Could it be? Is this the long-lost fabled second portrait from the artist's funeral? 

What ensues is a peek into the underground art domain, the high-priced, often dangerous game of buying and selling lost or stolen art. Alex and Luke travel to Amsterdam and France to find out more about their found (and then lost again) treasure. They become embroiled in an Interpol scheme to trap a notorious trader in the act of purchasing ill-gotten art.

Along the way, Santlofer offers up more than a smattering of art history. Van Gogh's story is retold throughout. The tragic theft of families’ entire collections during World War II and the art world's efforts at restitution and reunion are a theme. Santlofer definitely knows the world that he writes about, and he even includes some of his own sketches and watercolors in the book.

For art lovers, amateur or otherwise, the story of a find described as such is fascinating. For mystery lovers, the pace, the anonymous characters and the interspersed background histories all add up to a fun and thrilling read.

Reviewed by Roberta O'Hara on January 3, 2024

The Lost Van Gogh
by Jonathan Santlofer

  • Publication Date: January 2, 2024
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
  • ISBN-10: 1728258960
  • ISBN-13: 9781728258966