This a terrific read and will be of particular interest to art lovers. It reads like a detective novel and reveals a lot about the art world -- museum security (or lack thereof), art forgery, the artist culture, and much more.
ISBN 0307265803 - Old and unsolved mysteries have a strange attraction for me, as a reader, and I believe that, while reading Vanished Smile, I've figured out the reason: there's a feeling that, if you read enough, you might be able to solve it from your chair. This makes no sense for two reasons, of course. One, people who solve mysteries for a living haven't been able to solve it. Two, and this is going to surprise some folks, the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre was solved 95 or so years ago.
In 1911, on a hot August day in Paris, da Vinci's Mona Lisa disappeared. She was there on Sunday and gone by Tuesday and, thanks to some astonishingly lax security, no one could be certain exactly when she'd gone missing. Plenty of people had the opportunity to walk away with her. Several, namely Pablo Picasso and a group of his friends, had even said some things publicly that might be taken as motive. The growing market for artwork in America was scrutinized. All the theories produced no results. As time went by, desperation turned to despair as the world gave up hope that the painting would be returned. Two years later, just as suddenly as she'd gone, Mona Lisa reappeared. Even with the mystery solved, conspiracy theories couldnt be stopped - even today!
R. A. Scotti's tale covers all the known bases, including most of the obvious conspiracy theories, and brings nothing new to the story, but for those who don't know it yet, this is a very readable telling. Skillfully filling in the reader on the relevant back stories of several of the primary characters, Scotti does a fantastic job of fleshing things out in an entertaining style. There's a strong focus on suspects and too little on the actual perpetrator and on the officials who investigated, which is the only negative, in my opinion.
If you already know this story, Vanished Smile probably isn't going to be your thing. While it's well-written, there's just nothing new to add to the telling, other than the results of several recent high-tech studies done of the painting. The bibliography in the back is a helpful list of recommended reading for anyone who cares to research more.