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The Last Van Gogh

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Member Reviews

Quite an adventure!  An alcoholic, con artist father dies leaving an unfinished letter telling about a painting he smuggled out of France when World War II began.  His alcoholic son finds the letter and realizes he could get money if he could get his hands on the painting.  He involves his brother, the owner of a struggling art gallery.  But, he also talks to some of the wrong people about the possibility of this paining.  No one knows if the painting is real or if it is an invention of the con artist father.  Word gets around and all of a sudden the Mafia, an ex-KGB agent, some unsavory art dealers and others are all after it - whether it exists or not.

The novel is set in both the United States and Europe.  It is a very well-written and suspenseful mystery with lots of action.  I truly enjoyed it.  The characters were vividly drawn and the suspense built quickly.  

Thanks to Will Ottinger and Black Rose Writing through Netgalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Heartfelt and exciting .. this is an emotional trip through family as much as it is an international thriller hunting for a lost and unique van Gogh'.. the brothers at the centre  of this have a genuine feeling of sibling relationships about them .. and the financial  value of the painting make the great lengths people go to find it,  and steal it,  credible .. from Russian thugs and devious art dealers , to amateur con men. There is a (rather tepid) love affair involved .. never quite believable,  but handy for the plot .. berry impressive cand readable..
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Thank you to NetGalley, Black Rose Writing and the author Mr. Will Ottinger for the opportunity to read this Advanced Readers Copy of "The Last Van Gogh".

A mystery wrapped up in a suspenseful thriller, that takes the reader to Amsterdam, France and New York on a high stakes hunt for a lost Van Gogh.

Flashbacks to 1887: We find Van Gogh in love with "The Woman", a painting he just created for a private commission, and his story of descent into the darkness of madness.

Move ahead to current times: A letter left behind for 2 brothers by their Art forging, reclusive and alcoholic father lead to the "around the world" search for this priceless work of Van Gogh art.

If this painting exists, and it's a big if, it is nothing that the artworld has ever seen from the paintbrush of the master of impressionism. Unfortunately, many people want it- which leads to the old adage, " I'd kill to own that"...

And so begins the "underworld" desire for funding (and killing) to own this masterpiece.

No price paid is too high for this priceless Van Gogh.

3 stars
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The Last Van Gogh by Will Ottinger is a well-written standalone novel that is a combination of historical fiction (late 19th century and late 1930’s) and mystery/suspense in contemporary times.

The story takes us on a trip to Holland, Austria, France, Chicago, New York City and California. Of course the late 19th century part of the story deals with Van Gogh himself. In contemporary times, two old letters allude to the existence of an unknown Van Gogh painting; one that is much larger than his normal paintings and could be worth a fortune. The letters were from a con-man to his sons; one of which is an alcoholic and the other a struggling galley owner. Of course the alcoholic talks about the painting and several people are seeking the potential prize. Who can the brothers trust? Does the painting exist? If it once existed, was it successfully smuggled out of Europe and to the United States? With assassins, a former KGB agent, con-men and mafia types involved, who will even survive the search?

I originally thought this story was going to be a thriller.  To me, it was more of a mystery and suspense story. However, that did not detract from a great concept with wonderful character development and plenty of plot twists and turns. The pace picked up speed as the book progressed building to a climax. During Van Gogh’s lifetime, he suffered from mental illness and was considered a failure as an artist by many.  This comes through in the historical fiction part of the story as well as much more.

What more could a reader ask for? This was a mystery with a historical element that kept me turning the pages.

Many thanks to Black Rose Writing, Will Ottinger and Net Galley for a digital ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way.
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I am not sure what genre this book was. Was it a mystery? Was it a love story? Was it a love story of the main character to himself? On the outset, I found this book to be a boring farce. The only 'gems' in this book are the flashbacks to Van Gogh himself and his life.
Chicago gallery owner is on the quest for missing Van Gogh. He is a reluctant adventurer, but more than willing lover and... sooky lala, if you ask me. He is so reflective onto himself, it's boring.
What I found ridicilous, funny and unacceptible in our day and age is author's portrayal of all things Russian. It was really funny. Reading the bits felt like watching Cold War time cartoon or some bad spy movie made in the 60. All the Russian characters in this book are flat, one-dimensional caricatures. I am not sure if the author has even been to Russia post-USSR. His Russia and Russians are frozen somewhere in American perspective of Cold War.
The whole sub-plot of Russian Mafia, KGB is laughable. However, the laugh quickly becomes angry when the author takes on the power of judge and jury. He shows no respect for Russia whatsoever and no caution on what words he puts on paper.
Even though, 'Russian' sub-plot is not really material to the story (mafia could as well have been Italian or Japanese), it left a very nasty aftertaste. 
The book felt like Chase's crime novels... At least Chase had the strength to admit that he knows nothing about places he sets his novels in. 
The Last Fan Gogh does not hit the mark in any respect for me. Just one more book about bad Russians that do not exist anymore and good Americans who cry and reflect on every word they say...
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This book was a little slow at the beginning, but worth the wait! The plot was fascinating and the characters interesting. I look forward to seeing more from this author!

Thank you to NetGalley for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Adam and Wes' dad left some cryptic letters about a missing Van Gogh painting that no one knows exists. When Adam and his artist are shot at outside of Adam's gallery things become interesting. The artist's Russian Uncle becomes involved and hires Adam and Wes to hunt for the missing painting. There is a lot of intrigue, art information, history and suspense in this book. The book starts slowly but builds to a good climax.
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A riveting tale of a lost Van Gogh and and an art dealer that finds himself in the middle of a mad dash of ruthless killers that are desperate to find this unprecedented treasure.  At times the amount of bad guys that were racing the clock to get the painting seemed mind boggling. But I felt this was realistic when you consider if such a painting truly existed it's value would be astronomical.

  Adam an art dealer that has a a small and struggling gallery along with Kat a former KGB agent are trying to find the painting that Adam's deceased father supposedly smuggled out of France during wartime. Juggling corrupt and ruthless Russians and professional assassins while attempting to locate this lost work of art had me glued to this book.

 My favorite parts were the musings of Van Gogh during flashbacks that were carefully interspersed throughout the story line.. I felt they were so real the author might have found pages from a diary of Van Gogh's. The imagery of the painting and the famed artist's mental state was superb. I am not usually a fan of violence and you must be prepared as there are some brutal and sad scenes in this novel. The likelihood that evil would be attracted to the ultimate prize is believable. Does this painting truly exist?  Pick up this book and prepare for a whirlwind of a ride.
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This is a very enjoyable story, with an interesting plot and good characters. There are, however, quite a few logical and factual errors.
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So, you know what to expect with a book like this: a lost painting, clues left behind to its existence, lots of people chasing it, a family secret, a mis-matched pair join together to find it and fall in love…. OK, that’s what it is, and that’s how it should be judged. And I enjoyed it.

Adam Barrow owns an art gallery in Chicago, his brother Wes is a hopeless drunk, both of them living under the shadow of their late-father’s deceit and alcoholism. Their father had often spoken of a lost painting by van Gogh, a massive oil painting of a young girl in a field that he had acquired when it was smuggled into America to avoid to being looted by the Nazis. There are letters from a previous owner proving the painting exists, but that is all. 

What then follows is a rollercoaster ride, a (in a good way) cliché-filled chase across the world, from Chicago to Amsterdam and Paris and New York to California. Adam is sent off on his hunt by getting tangled up with the Russian mob, and he is assigned a stunningly beautiful woman as his ‘protection’, Katia Veranova, an ex-KGB agent with some dark secrets of her own. There is a mysterious ‘benefactor’ who has hired an assassin to track the pair and, as the body count mounts up, the chase becomes a cat and mouse affair. Oh, and there is another assassin, sent by the KGB, to track down Katia and get rid of her. Are you keeping up?

This is very much a genre piece, and the author clearly knows the art world; whilst the premise is a little unbelievable, the pace is cracking and the pages turn themselves in the race towards the inevitable climax. Yes, some of the dialogue is a little obvious, and yes, it is very much in the Dan Brown strain of books, but there were enough little nods to its own artifice that made me feel that we were in the hands of someone who knew the limits of the form (there are references to James Bond, conspiracies, and at one point a Reservoir Dogs-style Mexican stand-off). It’s not literary fiction, so I judge this solely on its merit: did I enjoy it? Yes. Are the characters likeable enough to engage you? Yes, but in a two-dimensional way. Does the plot rattle along at a decent pace without flagging? Again, yes. Most people will enjoy the twists and turns along the way, and the ending avoids tripping into schmaltz, which is to its credit. Fasten your seatbelts, 4 stars!

(With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of the book.)
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‘The Last  Van Gogh’ by Will Ottinger proved an enjoyable read with engaging characters and an intriguing mystery at its heart. I am always drawn to novels that include art and art history. As the title indicates the novel is about a lost painting by Vincent Van Gogh.

In 1887 Van Gogh accepts a private commission in Holland for a painting of a young woman. On the eve of WWII its reclusive dying owner entrusts it to a French diplomat. He arranges for it to be sent to the USA in the care of Robert Barrow, a young American working for the American embassy in Paris. Barrow apparently completes this task and hides it from the world.

Fast forward to 2018 and Barrow has died and left two letters for his sons revealing the existence of the painting, which is unusual due to its large size and invaluable. The younger son, Adam, who owns a small struggling art gallery in Chicago, is sceptical but his brother, Wes, wants them to search for it. The situation is complicated by Barrow, Sr. having been known as a conman and purveyor of fake art.

Wes shows the letters to a local Russian gangster, who offers to bankroll the search for a percentage of the eventual sale. He is a scary man! Adam is left little choice but to comply. Also, another unknown party determined to own the painting has employed a hit man to follow Adam, obtain the painting, and eliminate ‘loose ends’. Eep!

So it’s a fast-paced adventure with plenty of allies and adversaries. Adam is accompanied by Katia Veranova, who serves as both a bodyguard and to report back to her boss on their progress. So they go off to Europe and later New York and California seeking to verify the painting’s existence and location. Their trip is full of luxurious hotel rooms, champagne, galas, and limousines. Along the way the bodies also begin to pile up.

There are some chapters interspersed written about Van Gogh, chronicling his final tormented years and the painting’s route to the USA.

Clearly from a small independent publisher this proved a fun read. Hopefully it will come to the attention of other readers who enjoy treasure hunt thrillers. 

My thanks to Black Rose Writing for an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It was a pleasure to read.
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The Last Van Gogh is an exciting mystery. We follow three timelines - the late 1880's in Holland and France, the late 1930's again in Holland and France, and 2018 in Chicago, Holland, France, NYC and California. Our protagonists are brothers Wes and Adam Barrow, currently of Chicago but born and raised in California by a single parent art-loving alcoholic con-man named Robert Borrows. 

The historical story lines are told from the perspective of Vincent Van Gogh though not in his voice. The modern story line is told by Adam. Adam excelled in school and had an opportunity for college. Wes stayed home and took care of his drinking, dying father, then married his sweetheart Barbara and after a couple of years living in the family home in California with ups and downs and binge drinking and constant deep depression, they move to Chicago to change the scene, and to be near Adam, as Wes usually tries harder when Adam is around. 

Adam has a small art gallery on the verge of the 'bad' side of town but the biggest hurdle he must face is outliving his father's reputation. He has one excellent artist, Vasily Sorokin, and a couple more artists who sell occasionally. Even in Chicago Wes has an on-again, off-again problem with booze, but when Adam finds a need for him to work in the gallery while he is away, Wes dries out and does great. His wife Barbara and Adams assistant Sally help Wes, and they keep the Chicago gallery going while Adam and his Russian 'babysitter' Katia Veranova, go on an international trip funded by the Russian mob in Chicago headed by Viktor Krushenko and his main muscle, Arby (short for rebar and you don't want to know why) to begin searching for the history and location of the 'lost' Van Gogh that the Barrow boys father often bragged of while in his cups. While Adam doesn't believe it exists, Wes accidentally filled Viktor in on all the rumors and now he is their partner, like it or not. Viktor is the Uncle of Adam's best artist who is actually killed in front of The Adam Barrow Gallery as the brothers and Vasily close up shop after a very successful showing of Vasily's work. Wes takes a bullet in the leg. Adam's biggest problem is wondering if the Barrow brothers were the intended targets. To Wes the idea of a big influx of cash is a chance to start his life over again, and do better this time. Adam just wants to make a success of his gallery and find a girl and see Wes booze free and happy. But Viktor is not going to take no for an answer. 

The bad guys are coming out of the woodwork, and almost impossible to keep up with. There are Russians and a Couple of Robert Barrow's former pardners in crime, there are privately hired by who-knows-who characters tracking Adam and Katia across Holland and France, there is another attempt on Wes's life, there are several billionaires all trying to out think each other, to be there when the boys actually find the missing 'girl', a six by ten foot, impossible to hide painting completed by Van Gogh in 1880's Holland and perhaps rescued on the verge of World War II to France and/or the U.S.

Both Wes and Adam eventually just want to live through the search. 

I received a free electronic copy of the excellent novel from Netgalley, Will Ottinger, and Black Rose Writing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me.
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Ottinger has written a hit!  I thoroughly enjoyed the book and loved following the plots twists and turns.  The characters were well developed and I enjoyed traveling with the book.  Looking forward to next book by Ottinger.
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This is an awesome thriller disguised as an ordinary story. The beginning of this book is riveting and then it becomes more and more suspenseful. If you like searches for “lost” treasures, this book is for you. This was a great premise with good character development.  It turned out to be quite a thriller and kept me interested until the end. My thanks to Netgalley and the Publishers for my copy. This is my honest review.
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4 stars

This is a very good novel with an interesting premise. A one-of-a-kind original Van Gogh is smuggled out of Paris at the height of the Nazi occupation by a good friend of the current owner. 

The two sons of the just deceased elderly man who assisted in the “liberation” of the Van Gogh locate two letters written by their father. They go on an extensive search for the missing painting. 

When knowledge of the painting becomes more or less public, the brothers' search soon attracts all kinds of ne'er-do-wells that follow the brothers and try to get to the painting first. They all want the prize that may well be worth an estimated 250 million dollars. They seek the painting all over the globe. 

This is a very well written and plotted novel that starts out a little slowly, but builds over time. The story holds the reader's interest with action and if you like searches for “lost” treasures, this book is for you. I was disappointed that Mr. Ottinger made the one brother an alcoholic. I was put off by that as I was married to one of those. I liked the art gallery owner. He seemed vary long suffering, but somewhat intolerant, of his wayward brother. This is my first Will Ottinger book, and I immediately went to Amazon to look for others of his novels. 

I want to thank NetGalley and Black Rose Writing for forwarding to me a copy of this very good book for me to read, enjoy and review.
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Will Ottinger includes both history and mystery in a book that examines Van Gogh, a figure recently popularized by a few films and explored with an expert touch here.  A recommended read for those familiar with the artist's work, as well as newbies.
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