Death and Restoration

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9780002325905: Death and Restoration

General Bottando can't believe his rotten luck. He has just been promoted--to a position that's heavy on bureaucratic duties-but disturbingly light on investigative responsibilities. As if that wasn't annoying enough, he's received a tip about a planned raid at a nearby monastery. He's relying on his colleague Flavia di Stefano and her art-expert fiancé, Jonathan Argyll, to thwart the plot-but both are beyond baffled. The only valuable item in the monastery's art collection is a supposed Caravaggio that's currently being restored. There are no solid suspects-unless you count the endearing art thief, the flagrantly flamboyant "Rottweiler of Restoration," and the strangely shady icon expert. And there's really no reason to cause an unholy uproar-until someone commits an unconscionable crime...

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Review:

Like An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears's Death and Restoration is grounded in a richly cultured vision rife with references to European history, art, and cuisine. And, though it represents the sixth novel in Pears's Jonathan Argyll series, the author subtly informs new readers of the key relationships and the past histories of his characters within the first three chapters. Once again, Argyll and his soon-to-be wife, Flavia di Stefano, are enmeshed in the Italian art world: Flavia, as a member of the Rome police's art squad and Argyll as a professor of art history.

The suspense of the novel is sustained by the careful revelation of the central art-theft plot; in turn, each major character becomes the narrative center and offers an expanded understanding of the events at San Giovanni. While Argyll is troubled over his fiancée's frequent absences just prior to their wedding, Flavia feels compelled to keep odd hours. She's certain that her old nemesis, Mary Verney, has returned to Rome with the intention of committing a major new theft. And Verney, readers soon learn, is herself in jeopardy. She must steal a Madonna icon from the monastery--despite the close scrutiny she faces from the Rome police force--because the sadistic Mikis Charanis has kidnapped Verney's granddaughter, 8-year-old Louise, and he will only release the child when Verney has acquired the artifact from San Giovanni. Underlying each character's concerns is the mystery of the Madonna itself. Why does Charanis covet this piece over the more valuable, though still dubious, Caravaggio that is also in the monastery? In the end, the novel is a perfect melding of a tightly composed mystery plot, witty dialogue, and a realistic sense of character, all flowing from an intellectual's appreciation for the finer things in life. For readers who discovered Pears's fiction through An Instance of the Fingerpost, the Argyll series--particularly Death and Restoration--offers much to satiate the need for his pleasantly baroque sensibilities. Other works in the Argyll series include The Raphael Affair, The Titian Committee, The Bernini Bust, The Last Judgement, and Giotto's Hand. --Patrick O'Kelley

About the Author:

Iain Pears was born in 1955. Educated at Wadham College, Oxford, he has worked as a journalist, an art historian, and a television consultant in England, France, Italy, and the United States. He is the author of seven highly praised detective novels, a book of art history, and countless articles on artistic, financial, and historical subjects, as well as the international bestseller An Instance of the Fingerpost He lives in Oxford, England.

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