I saw Chasing Mona Lisa by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey listed as a free Kindle book (at the time: it is not free now) at Inspired Reads, and thought it looked interesting, so interesting + free = “Sure, I’ll try it!”
The setting is in France just as WWII is close to winding down. Germany’s Goring has been quietly amassing a treasure of prized art pieces, and when he sees the handwriting on the wall concerning the war, he sets his sights on the Mona Lisa as his ticket to flee to South America and escape the consequences of his wartime activities.
The French, foreseeing that the Mona Lisa might be in danger, packed it up and hid it before Germany took over the country, yet Goring and his agent, Heller, have their ways of ferreting out information.
Eric Hofstadler and Gabi Mueller are two Swiss OSS (Office of Strategic Services) covert agents working to further the Allied cause. They are in Paris to deliver food, medical supplies, and information when they are reassigned to find and secure the Mona Lisa.
Bernard Rousseau is a leader of one of the resistance movements, this particular one being Communist. A sub plot is that the various resistance groups are vying to set themselves up to be able to grab power and authority as soon as the German regime comes down. Bernard is one of the first people Eric and Gabi meet in Paris, and he becomes involved in helping them find the Mona Lisa before Heller’s operatives do. Yet he has ulterior motives they know nothing of, and further complications involve his girlfriend, Collette, the Louvre museum curator, and whether she is in on Heller’s plot or not.
I don’t read many spy novels, but this one definitely kept me interested and threw a couple of unexpected twists into the mix.
I got the feeling that this might have been a sequel, and I was right: Gabi and Eric first appear in The Swiss Courier by the same authors. I’ve not read that one, and this book is easily readable on its own.
One part where I had to smile was where Gabi, Eric, and Rousseau escape from pursuers down into the sewers, and Rousseau begins to expound on the “technological marvel” of Paris’s sewer system: it reminded me of Victor Hugo’s doing the same in Les Miserables (linked to my review). Paris seems to be very proud of its sewer system!
One major problem I had with the novel, though, was its graphic depictions of violence. It’s a war novel, so violence and death are expected parts of the plot, but the authors just got too detailed and graphic for my tastes. Thankfully there aren’t many of those scenes.
It’s also odd that this book is marketed as Christian fiction, yet there is very little of Christianity in it. Gabi’s father, another OSS agent, is also a pastor and wonders from time to time how his congregation would react if they knew of some of his activities, and Gabi mentions God or prayer a few times, but otherwise there isn’t really a Christian theme or perspective woven into the plot. It’s a very clean novel, except for the aforementioned violent scenes, but of course Christian fiction is more than just clean.
But I did like the book, reading most of it on my iPhone or Touchpad during a road trip, and it made for a pleasant diversion.
This particular theft attempt was purely fictional, by the way, but the Mona Lisa was stolen once in 1911, and the book does tell about that incident as further motivation for not letting it happen again.
(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)