Embarrassing confession time: the title of this book, The Mystery of the Lost Cézanne, led me to the assumption that this would be a story about a missing lady named Cézanne. Yes, I took Art History in college. Yes, I am reasonably educated. Alas, it took me about 30 pages to get beyond my mild confusion and realize that the title refers to the French artist, Paul Cézanne. One of his paintings is “lost.” Whoops.
Once I got over blaming Longworth for making me feel like a complete and total idiot, I was able to somewhat enjoy this book. It is apparently the fifth in a series of novels featuring the main characters Verlaque and Bonnet, who spend each novel solving a similarly formatted mystery. But really, aren’t all mysteries pretty much formatted the same way? So anyways, these two find themselves enmeshed in a truly original saga: France; murder; a famous painting; a professor; Tom Hanks. Ok, no Tom Hanks, but the DaVinci Code vibes are definitely palpable. Verlaque is asked to go help out a guy who thinks he has found an original Cézanne in his apartment, an apartment that, coincidentally, was previously owned by Cézanne. By the time Verlaque shows up, however, the guy is dead and the painting is gone. Aha – there it is: the Lost Cézanne.
The plot is pretty predictable. Nevertheless, there are some great characters and a cute little town, all of which contribute at least some originality to an otherwise stale tale. Oh, that was cute. I’m on a roll.
I wouldn’t not recommend The Mystery of the Lost Cézanne, but I would recommend reading the previous four novels. I found myself wishing that I had more backstory on Verlaque and Bonnet. The take-home message, though, is that Paul Cézanne was a famous 19th/20th century painter that I knew about at one point in my life but had since forgotten. Longworth’s little novel has ensured that I will never again forget.
A special thanks to Penguin for the review copy of the book 🙂