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by James Twining
HarperCollins, June 2008
576 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0007230419

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Hereís a nice little thriller involving one of the more enigmatic and mysterious wonders of the art world, the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Is it possible that the painting, sitting in splendour in the Louvre and venerated by all who see her, could possibly be a brilliant copy? If so, who did it and how could the substitution have been performed-- and why?

Tom Kirk is a reformed art thief. People who previously shivered in fear lest he turn his attention to their art collections now queue up for his advice. Da Vinciís Madonna of the Yarnwinder has been stolen and a message left at the site, in the form of a dead cat, unmistakably for Tom (nicknamed Felix) - presumably by art thief Milo, one of Tomís old adversaries. Kirk is horrified to discover that his old friend and master art forger, Rafael, is dead. On investigating, he learns that Rafael has been crucified.

Meanwhile, in New York, FBI Special Agent Jennifer Browne is called in to investigate an art fraud involving a presumed Gauguin, up for auction in one country while still in a collection in the US. She follows a lead to Paris, where she is followed by Leigh Lewis, an unpleasant journalist of the sensation-seeking kind. He is on the trail of Jennifer and coins the expression 'Black Widow' to describe her, since people with whom she has had a relationship tend to meet their death rather quickly.

Kirk and Jennifer meet by accident in France where they join forces, recognizing that both the cases they are investigating are connected.

This is a well thought out, bold, tale which contains quite a few thought provoking notions. The possibility of the Mona Lisa being replaced, undetected, by a forgery is rather delicious. The art history to which the reader is treated is interesting, especially if the reader is interested in what goes on in the art world.

As to the characterisation, well, yes, that is believable (if betrayal is your thing.)

On the whole, this is an interesting, if convoluted tale that provides quite a bit of excitement for the discerning reader.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, June 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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