In The Curse of Van Gogh, Tyler Sears, an art thief who has been recently released from federal prison, is trying to turn his life around, when he is blackmailed into doing one more heist. This last job is grander than any of Sear's previous jobs and involves stealing several of the most valuable paintings from a tightly guarded exhibit in Washington D.C.. Sears has strong misgivings, but as a powerful mobster is threatening the lives of his family, he is compelled to follow through with the crime.
With author Paul Hoppe's snappy prose and compelling plot, the novel gets off to a strong start. I bought into the premise and I wanted to see how Sears was going to pull off the seemingly impossible heist. Hoppe has a nice way of doling out small bits of information to keep the reader wanting more.
Unfortunately, the story begins to fall apart mid-way through. Hoppe has plotted a lot of action, but I didn't feel like much of it was plausible. For example, Sears is on parole, but he seems to be able to easily travel throughout the United States without really worrying about his parole officer. He has an easy time obtaining a impressive arsenal of high tech weapons and gadgets. A lot happens in the story and some of it happens too easily.
The action is not balanced by character development. I require character development to enjoy a story. There is a good set up for emotion and drama, especially with Sears trying to protect a mentally unstable brother and flighty mother. This could have led to some really wonderful moments in the story, but they were never developed. Instead, Sears is given a fast-tracked romantic relationship which didn't fit with the story. I kept thinking that less would have been more with this story.
I didn't completely dislike Hoppe's debut novel, I was just left feeling like it was a draft, rather than a completed story. I was left wanting more, left seeing potential that wasn't developed. I thought that the reference to the title was interesting. I'm not sure if Hoppe made it up or if the "Van Gogh Curse" is a known thing, but I liked the extra drama that it brought to the heist and I found it to be entertaining.
The Curse of Van Gogh is in the same vein of a Dan Brown novel and would probably appeal to fans of action-thrillers.