A world-class art thief snatches a world-famous masterpiece from under the noses of its guardians in 1911 Paris.
Parisian art students believe that La Joconde belongs up on the wall in the Salon Carré of the Louvre. Vincenzo Perugia believes that La Giaconda belongs in Italy where it was painted. But although he was born a marquis, Eduardo de Valfierno is a democrat at heart and believes that everyone—particularly every rich American—deserves his own Mona Lisa. So he recruits Perugia, along with skilled pickpocket Julia Conway and a grown-up street urchin named Émile, to swipe the Leonardo masterpiece. Once the papers report it missing, he can sell half-a-dozen forged versions to wealthy industrialists whose mansions line the banks of the Hudson River. He takes a detour, though, to Rhode Island, because he can’t resist peddling one of his bogus Monas to Joshua Hart. Ever since meeting the crass industrialist in Buenos Aires, where he sold him a copy of La Ninfa Soprendida, Valfierno has been entranced by Hart’s beautiful wife Ellen. Armed with an authentic-looking da Vinci supplied by a talented painter named Diego, Eduardo sells Hart something a little less than he bargains for. But in return, Eduardo gets a little more than he bargains for, ending up back in Paris to face a series of disasters, both natural and manmade.
Like La Joconde, Carson’s debut novel is set in an elegant frame—a newspaper reporter wrests the amazing story from a dying Valfierno—that still isn’t as finely crafted as what lies inside.