“Capers don’t come much ballsier than the heist of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911, the stranger-than-fiction saga that serves as the frame for this stylistically daring if occasionally dragging novel by Argentinian author Caparros (Boquita).
Eduardo de Valfierno, the mastermind behind the theft, refuses to be squelched by his squalid beginnings as Bollino, son of an Italian widow toiling as a servant in the Argentine backwater of Rosario. He repeatedly changes himself during his progress up the social ladder, becoming the perfect symbol for a frontier nation in the process of creating itself. And Valfierno just might be shifting shapes yet again during his extended, chronology-scrambling and confusing reminiscences, at least to judge by the discrepancies between his accounts and those of such confederates as inside man Vincenzo Perugia and ascetic art forger Yves Chaudron. This picaresque novel, the author’s eighth, won the Premio Planeta award in 2004.” – Publisher Weekly
Girl in Hyacinth Blue (M)
by Susan Vreeland
“Reading Vreeland’s new book is like opening up a Chinese box: each chapter reveals a new layer of meaning and import. The “novel” follows the trail of an “unknown” painting by the Dutch master Vermeer–The Girl in Hyacinth Bluefrom the time of its creation in seventeenth-century Holland to the present day. In each of the eight independent but chronologically linked chapters, the painting shows up as a prop in the lives of different owners, and in telling the circumstances under which these people acquire or lose the painting, Vreeland gives the readers a sense of the evolution of Dutch social history… True to the spirit of Vermeer, Vreeland uses art as a vehicle for capturing special moments in the lives of ordinary people; true, too, to Vermeer’s legacy, she creates art that brings a unique pleasure into the lives of ordinary readers. ” – Booklist
Luciana Vetra, revered prostitute of Florence, earns the chance to pose for Botticelli as Flora in Primavera, but the session goes awry when her innocent words anger the artist. Not one to endure an insult, she retaliates by stealing a smaller version of the painting. Her roommate and patron are killed when the artist sends agents to reclaim the painting, leaving Luciana with only one ally to turn to, the comely novice Brother Guido who has tried to convert her. They flee Florence for their lives and to solve the deadly secret hidden within the artwork. Following her debut, The Glassblower of Murano (2009), Fiorato creates her own masterpiece set at the height of Medici power. Renaissance Italy comes alive in brilliant sights and sounds from marbled halls to filthy sewers. Luciana is irrepressible, unabashed, and an absolute hoot while Guido foils her nicely as the learned, noble Holmes to her Watson. Political intrigue is deftly woven throughout, allowing readers to try their best sleuthing. Fiorato even layers in a charming love story for good measure.-
The Fourth Canvas (M)
by Rana Bose
“Some time in the 1970’s: A Calcutta teacher and radical, Subhash Ganguli, on the run from Indian authorities, disappears in London. The body of a left-wing Latin American intellectual, Guillermo Sanchez, is pulled out from the Seine. Years later, post 9/11: Claude Chiragi, McGill scholar, and son of a Pakistani free-spirit and a Quebecoise, receives a painting signed “G. Sanchez.” It is evident that the painting is one of a series and contains a subversive message about the rise and fall of empires. Two periods of rise, followed by two periods of decline. And it seems that some of the figures in the painting move–or is he imagining? Claude and his girlfriend Clara embark on an adventure across three continents, involving murder, kidnapping, a trek into ancestral roots, and a school for subversives in the jungle, and discover a world of political and intellectual conspiracies all out to obscure the message of the paintings. But who was Guillermo Sanchez, and is he really dead?” – Publisher
“The charming Eduardo de Valfierno makes a very respectable living in Argentina fleecing the nouveau rich. They pay him to steal valuable pieces of art, and Valfierno sells them flawless forgeries instead. But when Eduardo meets the beautiful Mrs. Hart on his latest con, he takes a risk that forces him back to the city he loved and left behind–Paris. There he assembles his team of con artists for their final and most ambitious theft, one that will enable them to leave the game forever: The Mona Lisa”–Publisher.