Aaron Elkin has been writing mysteries for a long time, but he is new to me. When I saw this title listed on Net Galley, I went to Goodreads and found that his work is well regarded by some of my friends; add to this his residence in my own Pacific Northwest, and I am ready to give his work a try. Thanks go to Net Galley and Thomas and Mercer for the DRC, which I received free of charge in exchange for this honest review.
The story starts well. Val Caruso is an art curator, and his personal life is a mess. He’s stone cold broke, and so when he is approached to do a job involving a stolen-but-found Renoir, his interest is piqued. An ancient Holocaust survivor claims ownership of a painting that has been sold to someone else, and Caruso is hired to help. I particularly enjoy the character of Esther, the domineering but charming friend that connects the two men; alas, we will soon leave her behind when we go to Milan.
At the outset the amount of art related information feels just about right to me. The book is sold as a popular read rather than a niche item for art aficionados, and I am cheered by this, since I have little to no interest in art. As we travel to Milan, however, the art lectures become oppressive. By the forty percent mark I find myself watching the page numbers roll by, oh so slowly, and cursing myself for having taken the galley. Brush strokes? Historical nature of paint color? Who the hell cares? The travelogue aspect of the book also starts well, but eventually the level of detail slooows this story to a crawl. I find myself cynically wondering whether this series is simply a ruse for the author to claim his globe-trotting expenses on his tax returns.
Elkin has a solid reputation built on an earlier series, and at some point I may give that one a whirl, but Val Caruso and I are done.
I wonder how much artwork was never returned. I am reminded of Monument’s Men and their cause. Must have been daunting. I am a huge fan of this history, the true stories more than the fiction, but some of the fiction is good as it reminds us of what was possibly going on then. I am reading a true story by George Kolber called Thrown Unto The World. It’s amazing, one of the best WWII books I’ve come across lately. thrownuntotheworld.com is his site for his book. It’s just harrowing what families went through.