The Gauguin Connection by Estelle Ryan introduces us to Genevieve Lenard, an extremely intelligent insurance investigator who has a photographic memory but lacks social skills. She knows all of Mozart by heart, and can write all the notes or recollect them in her mind at will. Indeed, Mozart is her saving grace in a world filled with lying people.
Dr. Lenard as she prefers to be called is an expert in body language and nonverbal communication. Kind of like the girl from Lee Hanson’s Castle Cay. But Doctor Lenard is highly educated with three doctorates. When I read the excerpt from the book and saw that it was about art heists, I immediately thought of Sidney Sheldon’s If Tomorrow Comes. Or the more recent Ocean’s Eleven. I was all set to enjoy some fascinating theatrics reading about seemingly impossible cons and thefts. But The Gauguin Connection is not that kind of book. It actually turned out to be much more serious than I expected.
Genevieve is roped in to help a friend of her boss Philip in solving a young girl’s murder. She is a young artist who was shot and a piece of a painting is found in her bag. Manny, a colonel in the EDA, some European agency is also working on some missing weapons. It’s all very hush hush. As Genevieve retreats into her research, she opens more than a can of worms. She discovers an enigmatic person who has been exposing several forgeries in the past few years, every time with a different identity and in a different country. No one seems to have caught on to this person. Genevieve is shocked when said person suddenly appears in her life.
As matters escalate, Genevieve becomes ‘jenny’ and finds herself surrounded by a motley crew who are all interested in solving a crime which gets bigger every day. This is extremely challenging for a OCD type person who frequently cleans surfaces touched by others, cannot bear being closer to anyone than a few feet away, avoids shaking hands and takes everything literally. It is sometimes comical and sometimes exasperating at how this person doesn’t understand the simplest of slang or idioms.
The story is set in France, but most of the characters are English. Although Doctor Lenard herself is multi lingual, it is not clear what language she herself speaks. The whole ‘retreating into Mozart’ seems a bit too much sometimes. So does the whole explanation about what Genevieve thinks about something and why.
The scope of The Gauguin Connection is much larger than I had imagined. We are introduced to many colorful characters who will hopefully be a mainstay of the series. There might even be a romantic angle. Overall, this is a fast paced thriller that is a sure page turner. I read it almost nonstop and thoroughly enjoyed it. There is a lot of action and activity without too much guts and gore. A must read!