Sacre Bleu

Christopher Moore has a knack for hitting a zany spot right between Tom Robbins and the comic fantasies of British novelist Tom Holt. Sacre Bleu continues in that vein, injecting a pair of bizarre immortal spirits into an enthusiastic, but not too reverential, tribute to the late 19th-century Paris art scene.

Actually, the novel opens outside the city, with Vincent van Gogh's murder (that's right, murder). The killer is a squat, mysterious figure known as the Colorman, who's sold his particularly potent shade of blue to just about every painter of note. Now, he and his partner, Juliette, have set their sights on Lucien Lessard, a second-generation Montmartre baker who, like his father before him, would really rather be an artist. But Juliette has broken Lucien's heart before--and his best friend, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, is determined to see that it doesn't happen again.

Moore uses the Colorman and Juliette to forge a clever occult connection between the leading Impressionists and the painters who came before and after them. Nearly everyone you would expect to see puts in at least a cameo appearance, and though some of the jokes are obvious--"Whistler, how's your mother?"--they serve to make these iconic figures more down-to-earth. Black-and-white reproductions of select paintings and prints provide additional context; it's a helpful touch, but you could know next to nothing about 19th-century art and still find your way through Sacre Bleu--and most of its jokes--with no trouble. If you are familiar with the scene, though, you've got that many more laughs coming your way. --Ron Hogan, founder of

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