In August 1911 the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre museum in Paris. Vanished Smile recalls the theft, police investigation, and eventual recovery of the painting from the Italian thief who thought he would become a national hero by returning the painting to Da Vinci’s homeland. (He miscalculated!)
The story recalls The Gardner Heist for its description of museum thefts. The Louvre at the beginning of the 20th century was almost unbelievably unprotected, even given the technological gap between now and then: the paintings were simply hung on the walls and anyone with an opportunity could simply walk up to them and carry them off, and the tracking processes were so lax that the painting went missing for many hours without anyone questioning the blank wall! And like at the Gardner a human breakdown allowed the robber to simply walk out of the museum.
There are also shades of The Forger’s Spell in this book since the authentication of the work was partly based on the craquelure of the paint and a crack in the wood it was painted on (and since there’s a background story about art fakes.)
Warning: rant coming. One would think that a book centered on Paris and Italy would benefit from reviewers that speak either language and who are familiar with the local cultures. One would be right. An appropriate reviewer would spot that the Prefecture de Paris is a not police force (the police of the Prefecture is a police force, but not the Prefecture itself), or that an Italian saying about Napoleon is a funny double-entendre. [end of rant]