Finding Cezanne – a review of “Cezanne is Missing” by Frank McMillan

Sixty years after the Holocaust, writers are still tackling all of the many facets of this horrendous event. The trick is how to expose it in a new way and to a new audience, who is a generation removed from it. Frank McMillan accepted this challenge and found a new approach to expose a teen audience to the Holocaust through his new thriller, “Cezanne is Missing.” In this fictitious novel, McMillan uses a long lost diary with clues to hidden treasures as the motivation for unraveling one person’s ordeal in the Holocaust to her teenaged grandson and her teenaged, street smart student.
The heart of the novel centers around the relationship between Lauren, a Christian, street smart, teenaged girl and her Jewish art mentor, Mrs. Rosen, a world famous sculptor. One evening, while Lauren is at Mrs. Rosen’s place, Russian thugs show up with Mrs. Rosen’s dead brother’s long lost diary. After reading the diary, the Russian thugs believe there is a secret code in it that will lead them to missing art pieces and paintings, including some by Cezanne. The thugs use intimidation, fear, and kidnapping as means to convince Mrs. Rosen to help them. She reluctantly agrees to meet them the next day. Later that night, she reveals her own personal horrific ordeal surviving the Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz to her grandson, David, and Lauren. The next day, fearing for Mrs. Rosen’s life, David and Lauren follow Mrs. Rosen to the meeting. They are too late to stop her kidnapping, but manage to get their hands on her brother’s diary. Using bravery and their own detective skills, they manage to piece all of the clues together to solve the mystery of the precious art pieces as well as foil the kidnapping.

Overall, “Cezanne is Missing,” is an interesting read with interesting characters. However, the structure of the book seemed uneven. Within the first sixty pages, McMillan hooks the reader into the story. However, he spends the next 100 pages delving into Mrs. Rosen’s past in the Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz. By doing so, the reader may feel distant to the original direction of the story. The past history is an important element to the story and needs to be revealed, but it should have been exposed in a way that did not remove the reader from the original hook. Perhaps it should have been revealed in parts throughout the course of the entire book.

The resolution to the novel, throws the reader back into the original storyline. It is intense and interesting. However, it seems rushed and a bit unrealistic. It should have been drawn out. Everything ties in together too nicely during the last fifty pages and the location used in the climax seemed unrealistic. Some readers may also have problems with the budding romantic feelings between David and Lauren.

Despite these aspects, “Cezanne is Missing,” is still a good read. Teenaged audiences will be able to identify with the two teenaged characters and should be able to gain some knowledge and understanding about the Holocaust. Older audiences may also find it interesting, especially the way McMillan uses the diary and Holocaust to create a thrilling storyline.

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