The Counterfeit Smile – an art crime scam by Brian A. Hawkins

The Counterfeit Smile – an art crime scam by Brian A. Hawkins

In Pittsburgh, the Simard family basked in their French heritage that had its roots going back to 1758 when today's Pittsburg was a French frontier fort called Fort Duquesne. Generation after generation, the Simards were the crème de la crème pf Pittsburg society. It was all very wonderful, except that their French roots were all a big  lie.

In reality, their wealth and status sprang from the antics of Shawn Callahan, a young bank teller from Maine who, in 1910, dipped his sticky fingers into the vault and skipped off to Paris. On the ship over, he meets Reggie, a titled English rascal in need of money. They team up, and from a suite in the Ritz Hotel embark on a series of scams aimed at the guillable rich Americans now flooding into Paris.

Selling "national" treasures "stolen" from the Louvre keeps them in cash to indulge in the food and flesh that the city offers. In the 1900 hundreds, Paris was the center of the world in the arts and the story takes you on an amazing romp with wonderful characters of the period who keep you hooked to the very end.

When the Mona Lisa is actually stolen from the Louvre, it inspires the boys to pull off their greatest scam ever, taking them into the bohemian world of Left Bank artists. At la Dome Café they seek out Little Leonardo. who paints nothing but Mona Lisa copies over and over again. They con Little Leonardo into painting copies. Claiming that they were the thieves of the Mona Lisa to two rich Americans, they sell Little Leonardo's copies to them.

Just before they board a ship to deliver the Mona Lisas in America, Reggies father dies and he must return to England for the funeral. Shawn sails alone to deliver the paintings.

A twist in the story makes it impossible for Shawn to return to Paris with the money and he assumes a new identity as  Alain Simard. settling in Pittsburg to begin a new life with a new name. Fate takes a nasty turn when the real Mona Lisa turns up in Italy.

The Counterfeit Smile is an extraordinary story that seamlessly blends real history with fictional characters in a journey through Paris that is wild, witty and wicked, charged with characters like King Edward, artists who would become famous, bistros, brothels and easy women.