Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa is the story of the theft of what is likely the most famous painting in the world. In 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen from the walls of the Louvre in Paris. It remained missing for almost two years, with no suspects, no leads, not even a single clue as to where it may have disappeared. Scotti chronicles the search for the precious painting, approaching the entire event as a crime writer would.
Scotti begins by discussing the actual theft. She describes what happened, without speculating as to how the theft might have occurred. After a few days, when Louvre officials realized the painting had been stolen, the French police began their investigation. Scotti chronicles this unsuccessful investigation then turns to the history of the Mona Lisa, telling the reader about Leonardo da Vinci and discussing the woman historians believe was the real Mona Lisa. After this historical interlude, Scotti returns to the crime, this time, telling the reader how the thief was apprehended and the painting recovered. Additionally,
she discusses the holes in the story of the man who claimed to have stolen the Mona Lisa and why his account wasnít necessarily plausible. Finally, Scotti turns to the supposed overall story of the theft, including the mastermind behind it. Scotti isnít fully convinced by this overarching story, as she makes clear in Vanished Smile.
Generally speaking, Vanished Smile is a well-researched and well-documented novel about a fascinating event in art history. Scotti presents the evidence well, and her argument is convincing. Additionally, his history of the Mona Lisa is illuminating. In some areas, especially in the first part of the book, the chronicle can get a bit dry. However, the book is well-written and engaging for the most part.
One thing that would have been helpful for inclusion in Vanished Smile is a full-color picture of the Mona Lisa. The dust jacket of the book contains a partial reproduction, and there is a black-and-white copy of the picture at the beginning of the book. However, Scotti describes the painting in such detail, and with such emotion and love, that it would have been useful to have a full-color reproduction of the painting for reference while reading the account.
Additionally, the chronological organization of the book is somewhat problematic. It would have been more helpful and compelling for Scotti to put the history of the Mona Lisa first (perhaps with a brief outline of the theft) and move on to the Paris police investigation after this history. It would have made the book easier to read and broken up the dry parts effectively.
Still, Vanished Smile is a book that nonfiction lovers, true-crime lovers, and especially art lovers will thoroughly enjoy.