Did Vincent Van Gogh really commit suicide? Christopher Moore's new comic novel Sacré Bleu proposes an alternative theory about Van Gogh's death. From Jeremy Lott's review of the book in the Washington Times--
The book is really a murder mystery that might have been called “Who Killed Vincent van Gogh?” History tells us that van Gogh killed himself, but Mr. Moore writes in the book’s spirited afterword, “So, Now That You’ve Ruined Art,” “I have stood in that spot [where van Gogh shot himself], and walked from there to the doctor’s house… and I thought, What kind of a painter does that? Who tries to kill himself by shooting himself in the chest, then walks a mile to seek medical attention? It made no sense at all.”
So he decided to tell a story about it and have his say about famous French painters of the late 1800s while he was at it.
Moore's book is entertaining (I read it), but it doesn't claim to be historical fiction. I wouldn't call it a murder mystery either. Van Gogh's death is really more of a frame that's central only at the beginning and end of the book. Moore's account of the way Van Gogh died, which involves supernatural characters, isn't meant to be taken seriously. Nor is Van Gogh even a major character. Most of the book deals with invented characters and other painters from history. Sacré Bleu--a comic novel--certainly doesn't offer any serious new theories about Van Gogh's death.
But such theories do exist. In 2011, authors Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith proposed in their biography Van Gogh: the Life, that Van Gogh didn't kill himself but was shot accidentally by two teenagers. Van Gogh later claimed otherwise, they wrote, in order to protect the boys. Here's more from The Telegraph: "New book claims Vincent Van Gogh did not commit suicide."
Although scholars haven't made up their minds about the new theory, Van Gogh: the Life is a great new Van Gogh biography that's filled with fascinating details about the painter's life. (For more details, see The Persona and the Palette, from the New York Times.) While Moore's Sacré Bleu is certainly fun reading, anyone who's seriously interested in the questions surrounding Van Gogh's death should take a look at the biography.