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Death and Restoration (Art History Mystery) Mass Market Paperback – November 1, 2000

25 customer reviews
Book 6 of 7 in the Jonathan Argyll Series

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Editorial Reviews 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Pears, an art historian and author of the acclaimed historical novel, An Instance of the Fingerpost (1997), imbues his light-hearted art-world mystery series set in Italy (Giotto's Hand, 1997) with an enthusiast's love of his subject. Here, Jonathan Argyll, art dealer and lecturer, and his lover, Flavia di Stefano, an officer with Rome's Art Theft Department, investigate the theft of an ancient, seemingly worthless iconic painting of the Madonna from the Monastery of San Giovanni and the apparently related attack on the head monk. As Flavia investigates the theft, she runs into legendary art thief Mary Verney, icon dealer Peter Burckhardt and Daniel Menzies, a hot-tempered art restorer who is cleaning the monastery's second-rate Caravaggio. We learn that Mikis Charanis, the power-hungry son of Mary's former lover, has kidnapped her granddaughter; release is contingent on Mary stealing the icon for him. Then Peter Burckhardt is murdered, and the police must scramble to find motive and killer. After Jonathan learns the stolen icon is "Our Lady," venerated by the people in the neighborhood for saving Rome from the plague long ago, he traces the icon's astonishing history and uncovers the monastery's unpleasant secrets. Although Flavia's suspects escape arrest, Jonathan fingers the real thief?and the motive?in an amusing finale. Pears again achieves a delicate, sure balance with a book simultaneously witty and instructive.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Art History Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; Reprint edition (November 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425177424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425177426
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,941,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Random Joys on July 29, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
DEATH AND RESTORATION is one of the "art history mystery" series. The series' protagonists are quite appealing. They are a still unmarried couple living in Rome. I must admit that we end up knowing her by her first name, Flavia, and him by his last, Argyll. If that seems a bit sexist, it is consistent with the European scene where new attitudes must break through habits that have crusted over centuries. Flavia is with the department of the Italian police that specializes in art crime. She has a mantor figure in her department, and faces competition from the regular police, the Carabinieri. Argyll is an expatriated British art scholar. In the earlier book, the Last Judgment, he was an art dealer. In this volume he has become an art history instructor at a university. The adventures revolve around art theft, invariably including murder. The plots exploit historical mysteries and criss-cross Europe. For example, in the LAST JUDGMENT, Flavia and Argyll go from Rome to Paris, Zurich, London, and the English countryside.
The plot of DEATH AND RESTORATION involves less traveling or the protagonists but is still strongly international. While the book lets Flavia and Argyll stay in Rome, the chain of events reaches to Athens, Istanbul, and London, and touches Austria. The underlying historical mystery involves the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks and the emigration of its aristocracy to western Europe, mostly Italy.
DEATH AND RESTORATION captivated me. The mystery is interesting and its resolution is unexpected, perhaps even surprising. The lives of Flavia and Argyll are at a stage that could be pure drudgery as they wait for their wedding. Instead, both encounter interesting developments, albeit professional ones.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By RCM VINE VOICE on December 31, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Iain Pears has quite a gift for blending his fictional characters and the world of art into a vivid, suspenseful story. "Death and Restoration", one in the series of Pears' art history mysteries, could very well stand on its own. The author deals with the necessary links between books at the beginning and sets the plot in motion for an intriguing romp through Rome, that new readers will enjoy as much as those who have read previous works in the series.

Flavia di Stefano is very likely at a crossroads in her life. She has a week to consider two career moves, to replace General Bottando as head of the Art Theft Squad or to follow him along to his new job. As if that decision weren't time-consuming enough, the squad receives news that a theft will take place at the monastery of San Giovanni, and a former nemesis shows up in Rome to make Flavia even more suspicious of the crime about to be committed. When a theft and near-murder does occur at the monastery, Flavia must recruit the help of her fiance, former art dealer turned professor Jonathan Argyll, and they soon find themselves embroiled in a mystery that is centuries old.

"Death and Restoration" allows readers to see the mystery from various viewpoints, granting insight that couldn't be gained otherwise. The characters are well-drawn and believable, the anxieties they face real and haunting. The mystery comes full circle in the end, and proves to be a delightful and intriguing journey through not only the art world but through possible religious mysteries as well.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Rick Mitchell VINE VOICE on March 27, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As I have written in other reviews, after the reading the first couple hundred pages of Instance of the Fingerpost, I bought the first three books of this series. The first, The Raphael Affair, was very good and I was looking forward to the series. The next, Giotto's Hand was a disappointment, due to a lack of development in the main characters and a disappointing plot.
This book restores all my faith in Mr. Pears. The main characters, Flavia and Argyll, develope and become a bit more human than in Giotto. The plot is terrific. As usual for the series the art world and culture are wonderfully portrayed and add depth and color to the book. A bit of history is thrown in to add even more to this novel.
Both Flavia and Argyll are truly likeable characters (they got lost Giotto) and investigate the art and the art crime in their usual different ways. This dichotomy works well. One is seeking the policeman's answers, the other the scholar's. When they come together, it forces the reader to smile and wonder.
You need not have read both the prior books in the series to enjoy this one; however, I would recommend reading Giotto's Hand first, since one of the protaganists comes from that book. Knowing her and her prior escapades would certainly help.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Red Rock Bookworm TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 13, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
You don't have to be an art history major nor a lover of the mystery genre to enjoy this wonderful novel. This book will satisfy anyone who appreciates a well plotted story and engaging characters. While Flavia de Stefano (police-woman extrodinaire)and her fiance Jonathan Argyll (art dealer turned lecturer in baroque studies)are an interesting couple, the star of this story is the "sweet faced" grandmotherly criminal, Mary Verney.
You will come away from this reading experience "chomping at the bit" to get to the bookstore to buy another Iain Pears book. He's Jonathan Gash, Wallace Stegner,Agatha Christie and Umberto Eco all rolled into one. You might also want to try Pears, the Titian Committee.
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