Artist-author Santlofer’s ‘The Lost van Gogh’ is a brisk, engrossing mystery – South Florida SunSentinel

By Oline H. Cogdill

Artist Jonathan Santlofer, whose meticulous research and insight to the creative process has made him the most prominent author of art-based mysteries, takes his engrossing approach to a new level with “The Lost van Gogh.”

A sense of authenticity permeates the novels of Santlofer, whose artwork has been exhibited in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others. Yet Santlofer never lets his research overwhelm his exciting plots. There is plenty of fodder for gripping plots with Nazi-looted art and the lucrative criminal enterprises of forgeries, thefts and more. The FBI and several large cities have art crime divisions.

“The Lost van Gogh” marks the return of artist Luke Perrone and his girlfriend, Alexis Verde, last seen in Santlofer’s 2021 “The Last Mona Lisa.” The couple may have a missing self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh hidden under a rather ordinary painting Alexis bought from a dealer friend in upstate New York. Rumors have circulated for decades that van Gogh left at least one painting that was never documented.

On the way to have the painting appraised, Alexis is attacked, the piece stolen. The couple seek help from retired INTERPOL officer John Washington Smith, who has relocated to New York. The search takes them from New York to Amsterdam to Paris.

Santlofer paints a broad canvas for “The Lost van Gogh,” steeping his plot in contemporary and historical art concerns, including Nazi-looting and the efforts of Resistance fighters to smuggle valuable art out of occupied Paris.

Briskly plotted, “The Lost van Gogh” also delves into character studies of Luke and Alexis, whose families were each involved in high-profile art crimes. Alexis’ father was an infamous art thief. Luke’s great-grandfather stole the Mona Lisa, and he was once on the path of crime and self-destruction until his interest in art and painting saved him.

Santlofer’s rich storytelling takes readers into a world that will be unfamiliar to most. As a bonus, “The Lost van Gogh” includes a look at the facts behind Santlofer’s fiction and several original pencil sketches by the author.

Meet the author

Jonathan Santlofer will discuss “The Lost van Gogh” at 6 p.m. Jan. 10 at the Glades Road Branch Library, 20701 95th Ave. South, Boca Raton, as part of the annual Writers LIVE! program. Registration is free but required. Visit to register.