Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore is “a story about the color blue”. It meanders through time and traverses continents, but at the center of it all is the Sacred Blue, a specific shade of ultramarine paint.

The story begins with the death of Van Gogh, here painted as a murder by the mysterious and creepy Colorman. From there, the story wanders through the lives of most of the great Impressionist painters and their masterpieces, but it focuses mainly on a young baker/painter named Lucien and his friend, Henri, as they try to piece together the cryptic circumstances of Van Gogh’s death and its connections to other master painters.

What I liked most about this story was how the supernatural elements mixed with the mystery. Moore very deftly mixes muses, monsters, and magic from different traditions into a compelling story. And his sense of humor is wonderful – it’s the perfect blend of deadpan sarcasm and gleeful wit. Several scenes in this book had me struggling to breathe, I was laughing so hard.

Moore is also really good at creepy atmosphere and tension. The Colorman, for example, is exceptionally creepy. All of the characters who encounter this twisted, pervy little dwarf are terrified of him, though none of them can remember why. Despite the lack of concrete reason behind it, the characters’ fear is catching and I found myself inordinately agitated whenever the Colorman appeared “on screen”.

The only thing I didn’t like in this book was the overabundance of everybody’s favorite four-letter unmentionable (which, ironically given my alliteration, starts with “F”). It really was a bit much. I get that the characters are French artists and are supposed to be rather devil-may-care and all that, but I really didn’t need to see the f-word every couple of sentences.

But, despite having to give it an R rating for frequent exposure to brothels and all the fun that accompanies that setting and the coarse language, I really did enjoy this book. The story was well-crafted, the humor well-timed and witty (if a bit vulgar at times), and the mystery was compelling and kept me reading. I’m still deciding whether or not I’ll buy this one, but I did enjoy it.

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