Review Detail

Middle Grade Indie 264
The Secret History of an Iconic Painting
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What worked:
The author deftly paints pictures of France and captures its uniqueness as Daisy moves about Paris and other parts of the country. She’s able to understand most of the language spoken there and enjoys the variety of foods offered. Narrow streets near her aunt’s apartment twist and intersect like a maze but life at Felix’s chateau is quite different. His castle-like home, surrounded by a moat, sits amid beautiful countryside where internet and cellphone service are lacking. Serene walks into town are a stark contrast to crowded excursions through Paris, including jam-packed visitors waiting to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Daisy’s best friend Lizzie is a newly-discovered model and her presence and activities promote the fashion culture associated with Paris.
The first half of the book doesn’t present a conflict for Daisy to resolve but ample clues are given to indicate something is happening behind the scenes. Daisy senses she’s being followed during one of her visits to the town near Felix’s chateau. She finds a gate open and pigs outside the walls even though she’s certain the gate was closed when she left. She thinks she sees a ghost in a mirror while stepping into the hall during the night. Felix goes through boxes and boxes of papers, burning much of what is found, but giving Daisy vague responses when she wonders why they’re doing it. He tells of spies during World War II and how Resistance fighters and secret Hitler supporters lived beside each other as neighbors, sometimes within the same family. Daisy hears her aunt arguing on the phone with Felix about getting Daisy involved. Involved in what?
A mystery surrounds the famous Mona Lisa painting, known worldwide and perhaps worth a billion dollars. Hitler was known to steal famous artwork during WWII so countries commissioned fake replicas to be created to help the real paintings remain hidden from the Nazis. The plot includes interesting anecdotes about these efforts and it focuses on the existence of “The Three Sisters”. Two nearly perfect copies of the Mona Lisa were carefully and meticulously crafted, including cracks in the picture and canvas. Daisy’s aunt and Felix were spies for the Resistance so general tales of covert operations are included in the plot with the main focus being on the Mona Lisa.
What didn’t work as well:
The story is set in Paris so the author blends French words and sentences into the narrative. Most of the French can be understood through explanations or context but sometimes the meaning is not as clear. French vocabulary helps enhance the setting’s atmosphere, but it might have been used less since all the main characters speak English. A glossary of French terms can be found at the back of the book but that’s only helpful if readers know it exists. The story can still be easily understood and enjoyed so don’t let my thoughts deter you from reading.
The Final Verdict:
Despite being the third book in the series, this one can be read independently of the previous two, as I’ve done. Daisy has obviously had past experience solving mysteries and this one develops quite slowly. There are tense moments but the plot doesn’t reach a suspenseful climax. Overall, it’s still an entertaining mystery and I recommend you give it a shot.
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