William and the Missing Masterpiece is the second picture book from Helen Hanckocks. Her first book, Penguin in Peril, was the biggest selling picture book in the UK last year! Hancocks has a fantastic, wry sense of humor that expresses itself perfectly through her cat and penguin main characters as well as the plots and illustrations of her books. Crime seems to be a theme in Hancocks's books as well! In Penguin in Peril, cats kidnap a penguin from the zoo, convinced it can get them all the fish that they want. With William and the Missing Masterpiece, fine art, cheese and very devious rodents are involved.
William and the Missing Masterpiece begins, "William, international cat of mystery, was planning a vacation when he was interrupted by a telephone call." Monsieur Gruyère was calling from Paris to say that the Mona Cheesa (in this version, Lisa has an array of cheese spread before her) had been stolen from his museum! And what's worse, it's National Cheese Week! William heads to Paris and begins looking for clues right away.
Part of the fun of William and the Missing Masterpiece are the art jokes that Hancocks makes in her illustrations. Manet, Munch, Rousseau, Magritte, Dalí and Seurat and Mattise. In fact, Hancocks tucks Mattise (and a touch of Picasso in the blue and white striped shirt) in the form of Henri Roquefort, into the story itself. Along with his friend, Fifi Le Brie, who has a chunk of red hair and blue skin right out of a Matisse painting, the two help William solve the crime, and just in time!
William's prowl through the city on the trail of the thief is great fun and his unmasking of the thief at the Homage to Fromage Annual Art Gala is truly a treat. Best of all, William and the Missing Masterpiece ends with William at poolside, somewhere sunny!