Friday, February 3, 2012

Review: Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey

By: Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-2046-9

About the book:

One enigmatic smile. Two passionate protectors. And a relentlessly ticking clock.

August 1944. Paris is on the cusp of liberation. As the soldiers of the Third Reich flee the Allied advance, they ravage the country and steal countless pieces of irreplaceable art. In fact, Reichsmarshall Hermann Goring will stop at nothing to claim the most valuable one of all -- the Mona Lisa -- as a postwar bargaining chip.

But the woman with the mysterious smile has some very determined protectors. Can Swiss OSS agents Gabi Mueller and Eric Hofstadler rescue Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece before it falls into German hands?

With nonstop action and intrigue, Chasing Mona Lisa is sure to get your adrenaline pumping as you join the chase to save the most famous painting in the world. From war-ravaged Paris to a posh Swiss chateau, the race is on -- and the runners are playing for keeps.


Eric Hofstadler and Gabi Mueller, two Swiss nationals working for the American OSS (Office of Strategic Services) based in neutral Switzerland, are sent into occupied France to bring supplies, money, and instructions to the cash-strapped and freedom-hungry resistance. Paris, the famed City of Lights, is a powder keg waiting to explode. After four years of Nazi rule, the scent of freedom is in the air as the Allies begin their advance across Europe following the D-Day invasion toward the heart of Nazi Germany. But freedom is not without a price, and Eric and Gabi quickly discover that with the scent of freedom in the air resistance groups with vastly opposing ideologies have already begun jockeying for political power in a post-German government. And while France is in turmoil, heady with the promise of freedom, opportunistic Nazis such as Reichsmarshall Hermann Goring and his lackeys seek to profit by the confusion and secure their own postwar futures by stealing the nation's most priceless treasures. With France's beloved Mona Lisa in Goring's sights, Eric and Gabi are thrust into a deadly game pitting them against Nazis and their own supposed allies in their quest to bring da Vinci's lady with the enigmatic smile home.

I loved Goyer and Yorkey's previous collaboration, The Swiss Courier, which introduced Gabi and her quest to become an OSS operative. I'm passionate about the history of this time period, and The Swiss Courier was a standout offering in a veritable sea of World War II-era fiction for its tightly plotted, suspenseful, and well-researched storyline. While enjoyable, Chasing Mona Lisa falls a bit short of its predecessor. The same research and feel for the time period are present, but the tightly plotted action sequences and razor-sharp plot focus that made The Swiss Courier so memorable are lacking. In large part I think this is due to the fact that the actual portion of the novel devoted to "chasing the Mona Lisa" only takes up a little more than half of the book, with the first half of the novel devoted to Eric and Gabi experiencing the liberation of Paris. While I enjoyed the snapshot of wartime Paris and the struggles faced by resistance fighters, I felt like this novel almost delivers two distinctly different books rather than fleshing out one storyline in greater depth.

That said, I have to give this writing team credit for delivering a type of fiction too rarely seen in my experience in the CBA market -- action heavy (rather than romance heavy) historical fiction. This is a novel that pulls no punches, never shying away from sequences of intense action and peril. The depictions of violence, while never gratuitous or overly explicit, provide a healthy dose of realism in this fiction market -- this was war, after all. I really appreciated the glimpse Goyer and Yorkey provided into the stresses and deprivations of occupied Paris -- the push/pull between Communist and Gaullist resistance fighters, the ever-present Nazi threat, provides enough meat for a novel alone sans the art theft angle. I also loved the all-too-brief glimpse into the lengths taken to protect France's national art treasures -- another fascinating premise that could have been explored in even greater depth.

Goyer and Yorkey have proven their mettle as a writing team, and their unique brand of historical action/suspense-centric fiction is a breath of fresh air in a market saturated with less intense offerings. With a more focused storyline, I can't wait to see what the team delivers next, because with their brand of adrenaline-laced historical thrillers they have have the potential to really own this marketplace niche.


Kate Scott said...

I'm so excited about this book! I loved The Swiss Courier and I just won a copy of Chasing Mona Lisa at the recent Facebook party for the release, so I'm looking forward to continuing the series!

Unknown said...

@Kate - I hope you enjoy it! Looking forward to your review!