The popular account of Vincent van Gogh’s suicide claims the troubled painter wandered into a field, shot himself with a revolver and then limped home to seek treatment. But that makes “no sense” to comic writer Christopher Moore. So he kicks off his bawdy new novel, “Sacre Bleu,” with a characteristically zany version of his own.
Vincent is painting in a field when “a twisted little man” known as the Colorman steps out of the corn and demands a painting: “The picture, Dutchman, or no more blue for you.” An argument ensues, and the Colorman’s revolver goes off, shooting Vincent in the chest. He dies later, but not before warning his brother, Theo, to hide the painting. “Keep her from him,” Vincent begs. “The little man.”
Watching that mystery unfold is part of the fun in “Sacre Bleu.” From that opening scene, the novel leaps to the bakery of young Lucien Lessard, an aspiring painter living in Montmartre. When Lucien gets word of Vincent’s death, he sprints to tell his friend Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and they set out on a delightfully ribald romp to figure out exactly what happened to van Gogh.