PROS: Very detailed descriptions of locations and events; authors seem to have done a lot of research
CONS: Focus of the novel isn't what is suggested in the title and synopsis; lacked any spiritual matter; too many main characters for the reader to connect with any of them
Swiss Agents Gabi Mueller and Eric Hofstadler find themselves in Paris in the midst of its liberation from Nazi occupation and get swept up in the revolution occurring around them. Having thought that they were only travelling to the city to distribute medical supplies on behalf of the Red Cross, they're soon informed that they're required for a more important mission - rescuing the Mona Lisa before Reichsmarschall GÃ¶ring gets his hands on the priceless painting. Along with Collette, an employee at the Louvre, and Bernard, her communist revolutionary boyfriend, Gabi and Eric set off across France in a race to get to the painting and transport it to a safe location ahead of GÃ¶ring's agents. Events don't go entirely according to plan, and soon human lives are at stake as well as the painting, and Bernard has a hidden political agenda that not even Collette knows about.
Chasing Mona Lisa contains far more than just the story of how the Mona Lisa was almost stolen by the Nazis. The downfall of the Nazi party and the corruption that existed among its ranks; the jubilation and dejection of French communists as they help to liberate France then realise that their efforts will not be recognised; the ways in which common men and women in France were manipulated into giving the Nazis crucial state secrets in order to protect their families are all presented in such a way that suggests that the authors had put a lot of effort into researching this novel. But as pleased as I was with the in-depth historical details that this novel contained, it took a while for the plot to shift its focus from the events unfolding in Paris in 1944 to the race to rescue the Mona Lisa. There's no doubting that Tricia and Mike have done their research into the liberation of Paris, but I did start this novel thinking I was going to be treated to a detailed account of how GÃ¶ring tried to steal the Mona Lisa. If I'd known that this book would have been so focused on other historical details I wouldn't have minded, but Chasing Mona Lisa was definitely promoted as a novel about the Nazi's attempt to steal the Mona Lisa. It's not so much that I feel cheated; more that this book sells itself short as it contains far more than a potential reader could guess.
It's not just that the story is slow to start, since a lot does happen in the opening chapters. Gabi and Eric arrive in Paris when the city is on the cusp of liberation from the Nazis, and they and the other main characters encounter various events that would likely have been typical of Paris at this time. There are some excellent descriptions of particular sights in the city that made it all the more easy to visualise the experiences of the characters. But, and this is a big but when you consider the title of this novel, no one actually talks about stealing the Mona Lisa until a hundred pages into the book. I'd waited nearly a third of the novel for the painting to be more than briefly mentioned in conversation and was incredibly relieved when GÃ¶ring finally reveals his master plan. Another slight flaw in this novel is that it jumps between the perspectives of all the major characters, including the Swiss agents, Collette and her boyfriend, GÃ¶ring and another Nazi officer, and even the agents GÃ¶ring pays to steal the painting. A lot of time is spent attempting to introduce these characters at the start of the novel but by the point the plot finally switches to the Mona Lisa I didn't feel as if I really knew any of the characters, just that I'd spent a lot of time reading build up to what I presumed was the actual focus of the novel.
I feel compelled to mention a couple of other aspects of the novel that didn't sit quite right with me. These may merely be matters of personal preference, but I'm sure that other readers will have had the same reactions. I'm not big on violence, even if I'm reading a crime novel or thriller. Naturally, it's hard to write about WWII without including instances of violence, but I felt that those featured in Chasing Mona Lisa didn't have to be quite so graphic. In particular, there was one scene that involved garden shears that wasn't terribly tasteful. The liberation of Paris was a tough time and regular men and women did have to defend themselves against rogue soldiers who were only thinking of themselves, but I wish that some of the descriptions hadn't been quite so graphic. A good writer can depict the gist of a scene without resorting to blood and gore.
On a similar vein, this book is marketed as a Christian novel from a Christian publisher, yet aside from a few fleeting and awkward references to Gabi's father attending church and thinking of his congregation, I couldn't find anything in the novel that made it seem more suited for Christian market over the secular one. I generally prefer my novels to have a subtle Christian message but sadly there wasn't anything resembling one in this book. I suppose it could be considered Christian in the sense that it's a "clean" novel - no sexual descriptions or foul language, although some readers may find the violent scenes unsettling. But other than that, I was a bit disappointed with the lack of spiritual matter, particularly as Tricia has shown herself to be very adept at delving into the spiritual lives of her characters in her Big Sky series. Again, this is a matter of personal preference and the story isn't at all spoiled by the lack of spirituality, but I do believe it could have been enriched by it if the authors had wished to include the spiritual journeys of their characters alongside the physical journey they took to rescue the Mona Lisa.
I had high hopes for Chasing Mona Lisa, and while I was slightly disappointed, I think this has more to do with the fact that the synopsis and title of the novel sell it for something less than it truly is. Tricia and Mike have crafted a highly-detailed novel that is about far more than just the Nazi's attempt to steal the Mona Lisa, and historical fiction fans will definitely appreciate the image they depict of the liberation of Paris in 1944. Christian historical fiction fans, however, may find the novel lacking in any sort of spiritual matter, which raises the question of what makes a novel more suitable for the Christian market than the secular one.
It's August, 1944. France is on the verge of liberation. Allied forces are advancing, while the Third Reich flees. Though Germany is retreating, Reichsmarchall Hermann Goring wants to steal the most precious painting of France-the Mono Lisa-a symbol of their freedom. The race is on between the Swiss OSS agents Gabi Mueller and Eric Hofstadler against Colonel Heller's henchman.
It was while Gabi and Eric were still fighting off stragglers from the Third Reich in France, alongside Bernard Rousseau of the Communist-run Resistance Group, that they were all informed by Allen Dulles of the OSS of the attempted heist of the Mona Lisa. Working through Collette, a curator of the Louvre of France, they hatched out a plan to retrieve and protect the Mona Lisa. Woven through these plans were the behind-the-scenes suspicions of Collette's innocence or guilt in collaborating with the Germans.
Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey give us a hit-and-run twist of plots from the very first page to the end. The evil of the Third Reich and their underhanded methods of torture are exposed. Man's inhumanity of unbelievable proportion. It's real and it's horrific. Your heart breaks over threats to even young children. You feel the fear of the characters as they go through the fearsome episodes. You find yourself holding your breath during the scenes of severity and tough demands in the Swiss Chateau.
Throughout the story Gabi and Eric prayed and put their trust in the Lord to get them through the dangerous circumstances and to save the precious Mona Lisa for France. Their heroism and loyalty went above and beyond their roles.
For a historical, fast-paced adventure, with a little romance thrown in, this is a book you will not want to miss. There are so many individual stories that have been told and still need to be told. But Chasing Mona Lisa triumphs the liberation of France and the hopeful claim of the Mona Lisa. It's another part of WWII history that I found very interesting.
This book was provided by Donna Hausler, Publicity Assistant, Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my honest opinion. No monetary compensation was exchanged.
Chasing Mona Lisa is available January, 2012, at your favorite bookseller, from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
This was another good book by a tight writing team. I have to say I liked it even more than The Swiss Courier. The story was smoother, I think, even though it was co-written. A few times I had to set the book down because life gets in the way of my reading pleasure at times, but when I picked it up again it wasn't hard to get back into the zone of the story. Some parts were more compelling than others, but overall it was a good read. It felt more historical than suspenseful, but I prefer it that way. The faith element wasn't very strong, but that didn't seem like it would blend as well into the storyline. It would have stuck out more so the fact that it was subtle was good.
A couple of times I was afraid for them, like when they were in the sewers and when the Nazi thugs caught up to them. I loved the tension between Collette and Bernard and the underlying conspiracy due to the struggle for communism after the Nazis left Paris and the French got a taste of victory. I also loved the affection expressed between Gabi and Eric. Those two make a great couple. The twist at the end was pretty unexpected, but I liked it and it fit the story. Again, this was an enjoyable story with a satisfying ending. If you like WWII era novels set in Europe, you'll enjoy this one.
"Paris, 1944. With Allied forces advancing through occupied France, the Nazis attempt to strip the museums of priceless art. It is up to Gabi Mueller and Eric Hofstadler of the Swiss OSS to keep them from stealing the most valuable piece of all: the Mona Lisa..."
'The Swiss Courier' raised some high expectations in my mind for what might happen in a sequel, and 'Chasing Mona Lisa' managed to live up to them. The authors have managed to create a plot that is very believable and includes a lot of information about a turbulent time in history while keeping readers (well, this reader anyway!) firmly hooked until the last page. I would only change one thing about it, and that is that although the book is one that a Christian can read with a clear conscience, it is not overly preachy. I like very preachy novels, providing of course that they are Biblically sound!
And one other thing. Since the book couldn't be longer, can we have another novel in the series? Pretty please??!!!
The setting for this novel is Paris, occupied by the Nazis. The Germans had been distressed to find that many of the priceless pieces of art kept in the Louvre had been moved before they arrived. When Hitler was rattling sabers in the summer of 1939, the arts community of Paris believed him. August vacations were canceled at the Louvre and packing and crating had begun in earnest. Many works of art, such as the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Venus de Milo, and the Mona Lisa, had been evacuated the moment Hitler unleashed the Nazi blitzkrieg on Poland. They were safeguarded outside the city. This novel centers on the Mona Lisa and Goring's desire to have it as part of his extensive art collection.
Now, the occupation of Paris is nearly over. The resistance expects the Americans any minute. They are disappointed to find that the Allied troops will by pass Paris and head directly for Germany. Then Leclerc's tanks storm into Paris and liberate the city.
But the battle for Paris and its fine pieces of art is not over. Near Berlin, Reichsmashall Hermann Goring admires his art collection, but acknowledges he is missing something. He needs a "priceless" art object to ensure his safety after the defeat of German. He sets his sights on the Mona Lisa. A member of the resistance, an employee of the Louvre, and two OSS agents from Switzerland are assigned the task of retrieving the famous painting before the Nazis do.
This novel is actually a sequel to The Swiss Courier. It is too bad the book is not identified as such on the cover. While it was not necessary to read the first one to enjoy this novel, there are several allusions to events in the first novel.
I learned a great deal about occupied Paris and the resistance movement. I became aware of the factions within the resistance, especially the communist branch.
I also learned much about the history of the Mona Lisa, its theft in 1911, and its preservation during World War II.
I do wish, however, that the authors of this historical novel would have informed their readers as to which aspects of the novel are actually based on history and which parts are fiction. Did Goring really have nearly 2,000 pieces of art? Did OSS agents from Switzerland really help the resistance? Was the Mona Lisa really hidden in a chateau during the war?
Nonetheless, this is a pleasing novel to read of World War II Paris and the care of its art.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.