First in the Italian art-history crime series featuring English dealer and sleuth Jonathan Argyll, from the author of the best-selling masterpiece 'An Instance of the Fingerpost'.
Flavia di Stefano is the kind of Italian beauty that art dealer Jonathon Argyll doesn't normally get to meet in his line of work.
But, it turns out, all he had to do was get caught breaking into one of Rome's churches - for Flavia is the Art Theft officer tasked with interviewing Jonathon.
A strange way to meet, perhaps, but then Jonathon has an even stranger tale to tell.
His claim that the church contains a lost classic, hidden under another painting, is treated with cautious scepticism.
But when the picture first vanishes, then turns up in the hands of a British art dealer claiming it's a newly discovered Raphael, it's clear there's more to it than meets the eye.
When vandalism is followed by murder, it's up to Jonathan and Flavia to discover just how much more - a quest for the true nature of a painting with a lethal history...
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 256 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication Date: 01/05/2007
- Category: Crime & mystery
- ISBN: 9780007229178
Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.
Review by riida
i never thought an engaging and clever detective mystery (as opposed to a thriller) can be built around something other than a dead body. well, there were a couple of people who died, but their deaths were not the puzzle. of course, art scams and theft are pretty combustible topics in themselves.i never imagined iain pears could write a humorous piece. as compared to his somber 'instance at the fingerpost', which also had a central mystery (murder that time), this was positively mirthful.packed in a tight 246 pages, this was fun and brilliant!
Review by bsquaredinoz
Jonathan Argyll, an Englishman in Rome, is arrested for breaking into a church. But he makes some wild claims about why he was at the church so Flavia di Stefano of the Italian National Art Theft Squad is sent to interrogates him. He tells her that he was at the Church to look for a painting which he believes, due to his art history studies, is covering a previously unknown work by one of Italy’s 16thCentury Masters: Raphael. When the painting goes missing from the church and turns up as the property of an English art dealer the world becomes engrossed by the possibility of a ‘new’ Raphael painting.<br/><br/>This is a fairly simple story but it’s very well told. It’s full of wonderful detail about Italy, the art world and how forgery scams work but there’s a decent plot, containing the requisite amount of red herrings and wrong turns, too. As is the way with cosies, there’s not too much focus on the nastier elements of crime and, instead, the reader gets taken on a romp through the madness of Italian politics and the outrageous things people will do in the name of art (or love) (or money). Silly scenes, such as the one where Flavia and Jonathan hide in a toilet for several hours, could be trite if not done well but here it was amusing.<br/><br/>The characters are charming. As well as Argyll, something of a bumbling though clever Englishman, and the sometimes-sarcastic, mostly hard-working Flaviathere’s the ’shade overweight’, coffee-loving Generale Taddeo Bottandowho is in charge of the Art Theft Squad. All of them are people you’d like to sit in a café with while sipping an espresso and discussing the meaning of life.<br/><br/>As with most cosy mysteries the success factor lies in a combination of vaguely plausible story, fun characters and a back drop that interests the reader. One of the reason I struggle to find cosy books I like is that many of the backdrops don’t interest me that much (so many seem to involve anthropomorphised cats and/or cooking) whereas The Raphael Affair’s focus on art history and Italy was a winning combination for me. If Donna Leon and Alexander McCall Smith wrote together I think the product would be something like this delightful book.<br/><br/>