August, 1911: The Mona Lisa is stolen by Vincent Peruggia. Many replicas of the Mona Lisa exist, and more than one historian has wondered if the painting now in 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.
Santlofer, an artist himself, knowledgeably guides the reader through the significant art treasures of Florence and Paris (where Perrone, oddly for an art historian, has never been), with plenty of action to goose the plot along lest the tone get too elevated. But his most striking achievement is capturing the divine and dangerous addiction that collecting art for art’s sake can become. Buyer and thief alike, beware.
... provocative ... As the story switches between Luke’s increasingly bloody investigation and Vincent’s heart-wrenching story, Santlofer brings unique expertise to this vigorously detailed story ... Suspenseful, lush with Florence’s glorious art and architecture, sexy, and emotionally complex, Santlofer’s multifaceted tale of how a passion for art can turn criminal contrasts the genuine with the fake and asks if beauty and love can truly be transcendent.
... outstanding ... Details of Florence, Paris, and New York City enhance the twisty plot, as does the insider view of the underground world of art collectors driven by deception, ego, and greed. Santlofer, himself an artist, should win more awards with this one.