Book Reviews

Author: Iain Pears
Series Title: Art History Mysteries
Individual Titles: The Raphael Affair; The Titian Committee; The Bernini Bust; Giotto's Hand; Death and Restoration; The Last Judgement; The Immaculate Deception (just out in hardcover)
Newsflash: It's the middle of December and The Immaculate Deception is out in paperback. It keeps up the standard set by the previous six, with some great twists and bringing back an old character or two.

These mysteries center mainly on the activities of the Roman art theft and recovery squad, and specifically two members thereof, General Taddeo Bottando and Flavia di Stefano, as well as a transplanted British art dealer, Jonathan Argyll. Each focuses on a different aspect of the art world - a long-hidden master thief in Giotto's Hand, a lost-and-found-and-refound work in The Raphael Affair, for example. The historical and artistic detail is ever-present but not annoyingly so; it just fits into the plot in the right place and you don't notice you're picking up useful tidbits of knowledge. Jonathan is a rather naive but amiable guy, and a bit of a klutz too; highly prone to, say, having a painting stolen out from under him at a train station or crashing his rental car into a store front (okay, that one wasn't entirely his fault). Bottando runs a bit of a loose ship which Flavia takes full advantage of, usually letting the paperwork go as long as possible and gallivanting off to wherever the leads might be found (and, sometimes, rescuing Jonathan from whatever mess he's gotten himself into this time). Since I'm a total mystery buff with way too many interests, this series is great - entertainment, little well-placed factoids, good writing (Pears is also the author of An Instance of the Fingerpost, which I recommend highly as well), small convenient paperback size (that's for the first 6, the 7th just came out, gotta wait for the paperback on that one) - in short, I love these things. Published by Berkley Prime Crime Mystery, they run about $6.50 apiece, but for some reason bookstores tend not to have more than 2 or 3 at once. Very annoying. Definitely well worth hunting for, however.

Legare est amare...