Book Review: The Mona Lisa Speaks, by Christopher Angel (+ Giveaway!)

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the-mona-lisa-speaksAnother thriller I couldn’t put down. I feel like I’m being spoiled!

It didn’t take me long to get into this book, a tightly written story that kept me captivated all the way through. Canadian computer security expert Robertson Ross foils a robbery attempt on art gallery owner Mathilde, and in the process, meets the woman of his dreams. Except it’s not that easy. Love never is, and Mathilde has more problems than she lets on.

Right from the start, I was delighted with this book. It’s so nice to read a book where an American isn’t the protagonist. I could cheer on a fellow Canadian (fictional though he may be). And I could imagine myself in the Louvre, wandering the halls, seeing the art, and wishing I too could see the expansive storage of artifacts and art.

Reading this story felt like a delicious indulgence—art, Paris, daring thefts, computer geekery, and true love, all rolled up in one. The author’s direct first-person narrative sucked me into the story so quickly, and in sections I almost didn’t dare to breathe, wondering how Rob might get himself out of the sticky situations he found himself in. I was never quite sure how things would turn out.

This is a fantastic read, and I was delighted to see a bonus chapter of a followup book. Now, to wait until that one is released!

And here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite!

She loved the quiet of the nights and the early mornings, especially Monday nights, because Tuesday was a day without the hordes of the great unwashed, and instead brought the blessed ministrations of her admiring and careful staff.  They treated her as she felt she should be.  They fussed over her, admired her, and appreciated her true beauty.  If only they could be convinced to hide her away from public display – keep her in private for only those true cognoscenti.  That would be the life.

But, who was this strange fellow?  She didn’t recognize him, and she knew all of her usual caretakers.  And, why was he alone?  What was that strange sheet placed over the case?  She was always glad when the case was opened, but this didn’t feel like a breath of fresh air to her.

Was this more of those strange and invasive tests?  What did they call them – x-rays and infrared scans?  She dreaded the strange, unpleasant coldness of the examining tables, and the cold, technical feel of the examination itself.  Yes, Leonardo had dreamed of machines like this, but surely not to have them trained on her!  The secrets of her beginnings were nobody’s business but hers, and Leonardo’s.  And if he had taken them to the grave, then that is the way he wanted it.  If he had painted over her veil, it was because he thought that suited her better, and showed off her beauty all the more.  Why reveal an imperfection the master had hidden?

What is that in this man’s hands – a new frame?  What?  NO, IT CANNOT BE! Oh, Leonardo, what sort of betrayal is this of your greatest work?

She saw herself – in somebody else’s hands.  It was like looking down on oneself from death.  There was her smile, the smile that had beguiled millions, but she suddenly found herself as the viewer, not the viewed.  And it terrified her.

This was not Leonardo’s great work.  This was a travesty, a transgression of everything that was right in the world.

Wait, he dared touch her?  What was this madman going to do?

About the book:
Brilliant and confident Robertson Ross, an outdoorsy Canadian computer expert hired to update the Louvre’s security system, falls in love with Mathilde, a classic beauty and cultured Parisian art dealer.  But, when he discovers that she’s deeply in debt to Jacques Renard, a powerful and dangerous lord of the French criminal underground, he has to embark on the risky and thrilling theft of the Mona Lisa to save her – and their unborn child.

Rob’s biggest problems actually begin after he successfully steals the Mona Lisa and replaces her with a perfect copy.  Facing betrayals and double-crosses at all turns, he needs every bit of his intelligence, cunning, courage, and computer skills to stay alive and reunite with his true love.  This is a story of thrills, danger, and a Canadian from the frozen North falling in love with Paris.

Buy the book:
Released May 6, 2013 by Over The Edge Books

ISBN-10: 1484166957
ISBN-13: 978-1484166956

Get in touch with the author:
Twitter @filmangel and @MonaLisaSpeaks

Christopher AngelAbout the Author:
Emmy nominee Christopher Angel was inspired to write The Mona Lisa Speaks, his first novel, during a visit to the Louvre, where he dared ask, “why is the Mona Lisa so famous?”  The answer, in part, surprised him: few know that the Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911, and went missing for two years.  Wondering what happened in those intervening two years launched his own fictional update of the story.

A professional film-maker, Christopher’s most recent movie as a writer/director is This Is Not A Test – a satire about domestic terrorism that aired on Showtime. He was nominated for an Emmy for his work on James Cameron’s documentary, Expedition Bismarck, and won a student Academy Award for his short film, Mr. October.  Christopher received his B.A. from Yale University, where he was a Humanities major, and an MFA in film-making from the University of Southern California.


The Unabashed Francophile Post, Part 6: Musée d’Orsay

I went to Paris to go to the Musée d’Orsay. Okay, so I went for a few other things as well (food, coffee, Shakespeare & Co. …), but the Musée d’Orsay was first on my list for museums. Though the Louvre is larger and its collection diverse, the Musée d’Orsay enchanted me.

The museum houses a massive collection of Impressionist era art: Rodin’s ‘Porte de l’Enfer‘ (The Gates of Hell), Manet’s ‘Olympia‘ and ‘Le déjeuner sur l’herbe‘, Degas’s ‘Dans un café‘ (L’absinthe) and ‘Petite danseuse de quatorze ans‘, and more than I could ever truly appreciate in a single visit.

I have an especial fondness for Impressionist art, due to its (general) lack of religiosity and its dramatic use of colour and composition. My favourite art history class at uni was the one that dealt with the Impressionist (and later) period. To see these famous works up close and in person – there are no words for my awe.  Degas’s ‘Dans un café‘ (L’absinthe) had struck me with its use of the diagonal composition in the foreground of the painting, something which immediately attracts the eye.

Seeing Rodin’s ‘Gates of Hell’ up close and personal again was fantastic. I’d originally seen a cast of the Gates at the Rodin sculpture garden at Stanford University in California, and it was a treat to see them again in Paris. The Gates are my favourite of Rodin’s sculptures; all the detail could keep me occupied for hours.

The museum itself is a wonder to see – housed in a former train station, the light and dramatic arches are stunning. I photographed the header at the top of my blog in the museum. From the walkway near the clock, you can see through the center of the clock over Paris, including Montmartre and the Eglise Sacre Coeur on the hill. I would have liked to spend an entire day in d’Orsay, but I only had a few hours. It’ll be first on my list of museums to visit when I next go to Paris.