Iain Pears is the author of the New York Times bestseller An Instance of the Fingerpost and The Portrait. He lives in Oxford, England.
Following the success of his historical thriller, An Instance of the Fingerpost, Pears returns to his Jonathan Argyll mysteries and continues to explore the intricacies and intrigue of the Italian art world. Flavia de Stefano, the acting head of the Art Theft Department of the Italian Police Force, is faced with an impossible problem: retrieving a stolen artwork on loan to the Italian government without giving in to ransom demands (which, apparently, are illegal to honor in Italy). Aided by her art expert husband, Jonathan Argyll, she embarks on a trail that's chockfull of 20-year-old secrets and encounters bad guys (and girls) in abundance. Pears offers a glimpse of the painstaking process of authenticating ancient works of art, which, to this reader, was more compelling than the story itself. While this is an interesting look at the world of art collectors, the plot is a tad too complex and difficult to follow. Recommended for larger mystery collections.D Caroline Mann, Univ. of Portland Lib., OR Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Jonathan Argyll, accompanied by his new wife, Flavia di Stefano, makes his seventh appearance in this confusing case of a stolen painting, murder and intrigue, following 1998's well-received An Instance of the Fingerpost. Antonio Sabauda, the Italian prime minister, asks Flavia, now acting head of the national art squad, to recover Claude Lorraine's Landscape with Cephalis and Procris, stolen from an Italian museum while on loan from the Louvre. Flavia, however, must not use public money for the requested ransom. As Flavia's former boss, Gen. Taddeo Bottando, has told her, "Prime ministers? Oh, they can ruin your life." She finds this is true on many levels. Meanwhile, Argyll, the art expert, is snooping into the provenance of a small painting owned by Bottando. Soon Argyll and Flavia find that almost everyone they talk to in their respective investigations has a hidden agenda. Who is behind all the shady goings-on in the art world? Is it Prime Minister Sabauda, General Bottando or another person with something to protect? Ultimately, as people's motives become clearer and one corpse after another turns up, Argyll and Flavia find that they have to make some very disturbing choices involving their own sense of morality. A personal secret that Flavia harbors until the end adds some intrigue. While the author nicely portrays the Italian art world, readers looking for a scintillating mystery will have to seek elsewhere. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
-- Chicago Sun-Times