Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: The Curse of Van Gogh by Paul Hoppe

Thrillers are not my usual read. But I have to admit a strange fondness for books about art heists. Maybe it's the idea of people wanting to own (by stealing) the product of someone else's creativity. After all, I love owning books, which is a similar concept, although I don't have a first edition or manuscript craving. Or maybe it's the idea I have that art thieves are not only amazingly intelligent but also gentlemanly. Whatever the case, Paul Hoppe's novel, The Curse of Van Gogh does indeed have a gentlemanly art thief reluctantly planning to execute the heist of the century.

Tyler Sears is a master art thief who has just been released from prison early for good behavior. He's decided that he really needs to keep his nose clean and give up his life of crime until Mr. Imasu, a sinister and threatening Japanese businessman makes him an offer he can't refuse. And Tyler can't refuse because Mr. Imasu is threatening to hurt both Tyler's slightly flaky mother and his adored older brother, who has been destroyed by his experiences covering foreign wars for the New York Times and is now institutionalized. Initially Mr. Imasu wants Tyler to steal Van Gogh's Starry Night for him but Tyler, hoping to call Imasu's bluff suggests that he should lift 12 major Impressionist works from an upcoming special exhibition at the National Gallery of Art instead. Unfortunately for Tyler, Imasu agrees so he now has to pull off an impossible heist without getting caught and try to stay alive afterwards as well, a feat no one else in Imasu's orbit seems able to accomplish.

Tyler is a fascinating character. He cares deeply for his family and values his friends and connections. He's falling in love with Lucy, a woman he met just before he was caught and sent to jail three years ago, and he wants to protect her. And as much as he doesn't want to do this job for the ruthless Imasu, more importantly, he wants to stay alive, and to keep those he cares about alive. Tyler is meticulous in his planning and preparation and his connections to the underworld of art forgery and hit men are impressive. The sheer intelligence and the stunning amount of technology needed to circumvent security is impressive and detailed. But the heist isn't all cerebral.  It is action packed too.  There are car chases and grisly warnings about insubordination, Interpol operatives with a grudge and dealings with much intrigue. There's enough adrenaline and thrill here to easily make this a blockbuster movie. The book itself opens with a young Nazi trying to smuggle a Van Gogh out of Germany for Goering and dying in the process, setting the tone for the well-known curse that accompanies the tortured painter's works. Although the short piece works to establish the curse, it is a little disconnected from the rest of the book. But that's a small issue in an otherwise fast-paced and engrossing novel that kept even this non-thriller reader reading.

For more information about Paul Hoppe and the book, check out his website, his Facebook page, his Twitter feed or connect with him on GoodReads. Take a look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Janay from Book Sparks PR and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

1 comment:

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