France is in Germany’s grip, but Bernard Rousseau and his fellow members of the Resistance are determined to see France freed from Nazi control and restored to its pre-World War II glory. Bernard would do anything to secure his country’s liberation, including risking his own life to stop a train loaded with priceless French works of art from leaving Paris, bound for Germany.
Two years later, August 1944, liberation is assured. Swiss agents Eric Hofstadler and Gabi Mueller are en route to France to deliver supplies on behalf of the Red Cross. Meanwhile, Colette Perriard is hard at work as a curator in the Louvre, from which some of France’s most famous valuable works of art were secreted away when Nazi occupation of France became an eventuality. Now she struggles through each day, eagerly anticipating the departure of the Germans who direct her work at the famed museum.
The world’s most treasured painting, the Mona Lisa, is tucked safely away at a secret location, but is about to become the object of intrigue and sabotage — a bargaining chip in Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring’s desperate plan to escape Germany and the punishment that surely awaits him for his war crimes and a pawn in a high-stakes political gambit led by Bernard to discredit Charles de Gaulle and the Gaullists in order to prevent them from assuming power after Allied troops liberate France.
Authors Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey have collaborated to create a fast-paced, keep-’em-guessing adventure centered around the fate of the world’s most renowned and beloved work of art, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, set in wartime France and Switzerland.
The story begins with Bernard’s exploits. He is principled, dedicated, and prepared to risk his very life for the sake of seeing France freed from German control so that it can reemerge as a Communist nation. Meanwhile, Eric and Gabi are OSS agents who have faced danger and found love together, while Colette is determined to endure the German occupation for the sake of her career as a curator in which she has worked hard to establish herself and the precious artworks she is equally determined to safeguard. Although she knows the whereabouts of the paintings that were whisked away to safekeeping, she is sworn to secrecy. It is not immediately apparent how the three stories relate to each other, but patient readers are rewarded when Eric and Gabi encounter Bernard, who has been involved with Colette.
Still, allegiances may not be as they appear and the characters have secrets which, if revealed, could jeopardize not only their relationships, but their lives. Numerous skillfully-timed plot twists and revelations about the characters’ motivations propel the story forward at breakneck speed. Each character’s fortitude and integrity are tested as they are forced to make life and death decisions during the race to retrieve the Mona Lisa from her hiding place in a countryside chateau before she falls into the clutches of one of two evil German war criminals. In the wake of Germany’s impending defeat, Goring plans to use the painting, as well as the massive collection of other works of art he has amassed, to flee to South America in order to evade prosecution. What he doesn’t realize is that he has been duped by his own trusted assistant, Colonel Heller, who also bears a sinister connection to both Colette and Bernard.
Chasing Mona Lisa is a well-researched thriller loaded with narrow escapes, shocking plot developments, and poignant moments in which the characters’ humanity makes them hauntingly sympathetic, all set against the backdrop of a proud country torn apart by war. The story was inspired by real events — the Mona Lisa was spirited from place to place to keep it from falling into Germans hands and indeed did hang over a little girl’s bed for a time — as well as actual historical figures. But Goyer and Yorkey have vividly imagined and expertly brought to life an escapade that could have unfolded during that tumultuous period. That is what makes Chasing Mona Lisa so entertaining.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one copy of Chasing Mona Lisa free of charge from the author. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own. This disclosure complies with 16 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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