Review: The Last Van Gogh by Will Ottinger

Adam and Wesley Barrow are the sons of a notorious con man. Following their father’s death, Wes discovers two letters. One of these letters is written by their father, claiming that he once smuggled an unknown Van Gogh painting from France into the U.S at the outbreak of World War II, and the other letter supposedly confirms the paintings existence and backs up their father’s story.

The painting in question is said to be of a much larger scale than any other painting that Van Gogh created. Along with the fact that it is unknown, and has been missing for 90 years, this makes the piece extremely valuable. But does this mysterious painting even exist? Taking their father’s past into consideration, Adam is skeptical of his father’s tale.

The possibility of such a painting existing catches the attention some very questionable characters, all of which are former associates Adam and Wes’ father. On their path to finding the painting, the brothers will encounter dangers that they could never have imagined, including a contracted killer. They will also make some unexpected alliances, including a Russian mafia leader, and a KGB defector and ex-assassin.

Will they ever find the painting? Will they even survive long enough to complete their quest?

When I first came across The Last Van Gogh on NetGalley, I was instantly interested, and had to read it. Van Gogh is one of my biggest inspirations as an artist, and I tend to read any book that I find which relates to him in any way. This book is in the ‘Mystery & Thrillers’ section on NetGalley, and thriller is usually my go to genre. The Last Van Gogh combines two of my favourite things, how could I resist?

However, after reading a few chapters, I soon realised that this wasn’t going to be the exciting, mystery/thriller I had been so looking forward to getting in to. The Last Van Gogh is by no means a bad book, but it really didn’t live up to my expectations. But, I do think I built this up way too much in my head before I started reading, due to my huge passion for Van Gogh and his work, which may have been why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had anticipated.

The whole story seemed a little uneventful. We followed the characters on their travels around Holland, France, and the US in search of the painting, but even though Adam was accompanied by an ex-assassin, and was being followed by a contracted killer, nothing major seemed to happen on these travels. It wasn’t boring to read, but I certainly wanted more action, and more excitement. The most thrilling parts in the story occurred while they were staying at home, and not out in search of the missing Van Gogh, which didn’t really make much sense to me. Surely it should have been the opposite way around? The story got a little more exciting towards the end, but by then it was a bit too late.

I will say that Will Ottinger clearly did his research on the artist. The chapters that were supposed to be from Van Gogh’s point of view were packed with historical accuracy, and it was interesting to read a fictional representation of how Van Gogh may have felt during those times in his life.

The characters were definitely a positive point for The Last Van Gogh. Ottinger did a great job of including a range of personalities, and portraying each one brilliantly in the process. There was definitely some serious stereotyping going on though… I won’t give examples, but if you do read the book, you will see exactly what I mean.

The thing I enjoyed the most about this story was trying to visualise this immense, unknown, Van Gogh masterpiece for myself, throughout the book. Much like the characters in the story, I couldn’t get the painting out of my head. I kept picturing the image, the colours, the brush strokes, and the sheer size of the piece, and imagining what it would be like to see this incredibly beautiful painting in real life.

I would like to say a big thank you to NetGalley and Black Rose Writing for sending me a copy. This book wasn’t terrible, but definitely could have been better. I give The Last Van Gogh a 3/5 rating.

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