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on July 29, 2003
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. Flavia must chose between a move or promotion and Argyll toys with the development of a research project.
My reading of Pears leaves me with mixed feelings. DEATH AND RESTORATION is the third book of Ian Pears that I read. The other two were frustrating displays of a great author using excellent themes, yet failing to reach excellence. His book THE INSTANCE OF THE FINGERPOST relies too heavily on the mystical, while THE LAST JUDGEMENT has a frustratingly obvious plot. DEATH AND RESTORATION is the first that I consider to be a truly first class book, deserving the five star rating�I am very stingy.
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VINE VOICEon December 31, 2006
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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VINE VOICEon March 27, 2003
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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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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on May 31, 2000
Once again, the charming but luckless young art dealer, Jonathan Argyll, and his new wife, the capable art cop Flavia stumble into an odd situation with a stolen piece of art.
Set in a dusty but gorgeous old neighborhood in the streets of Rome, this tale is filled with subplots. A blackmailed grandmother, risking her life and reputation to save her young granddaughter, an ancient order of monks moving reluctantly into the modern century, an ancient legend that seems to have come to life. Throughout the tale, Pears walks a delicate line, allowing the reader to slip into the aura of the past, and to wonder at the possibilities of real backing for old superstitions.
This story is not only filled with engrossing secondary stories, but also chock full of wonderfully drawn and realized characters. An old monk slipping into senility, who is the only one with a complete understanding of the history of the missing piece of art. A superstitious and dutiful neighborhood cleaning lady. Two aging, brilliant criminals, with their own stringent moral codes, and a secret past love affair. And the reader meets again with Jonathan and Flavia's favorite nemesis.
Again in this warm and engaging series, Pears has produced a charming mystery that stands well above the ordinary.
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on March 15, 1999
This book is not only a good mystery, but it also is a very intelligent one. The author knows his setting, his place and his history - something one so rarely finds. This is not a book for the beach; you will have to think a bit to solve the mystery. Highly recommendable.
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on August 4, 2006
In "Death and Restoration", Iain Pears composed a concise mystery replete with historical references featuring former art dealer Jonathan Argyll and his significant other Flavia di Stefano. Flavia, a ranking member of Rome's Art Theft Squad had been tipped off to a possible theft at the austere San Giovanni monastery. She was also made aware of the presence in Rome of Mary Verney, a matronly fiftyish Englishwoman, who was nonetheless a noted art thief.

The target of the thievery was an ancient, fairly nondescript looking Byzantine icon known as the Hodigitria. It was alleged to be the holiest of all Eastern icons and imbued with mystical powers. Verney was commissioned to steal the painting by a Greek criminal Mikis Charanis, who had kidnapped Verney's granddaughter to assure her cooperation.

Before Verney could pilfer the icon, Father Xavier, the father superior of the monastery was severely bludgeoned within the confines of San Giovanni and the icon disappeared. We soon learn that Father Xavier through a series of unwise investments, had lost nearly $250,000 of the monastery's money. He was planning to sell the icon to recoup those funds against the wishes of the order of monks.

Within this confusing framework, Pears using his art history background, navigates his characters through a morass of art and religious history to unravel the mystery of the disappearance of the precious icon.
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on March 15, 2000
The 6th in the Jonathan Argyll art mystery series, I enjoyed this title as much as any of the others. The return of a protaganist featured in the previous book, made for very nice continuity, but the book would certainly be enjoyable even if you haven't read any of the others. The "team" of Jonathan and Flavia compliment each other in skills... and I personally enjoy the foreign location settings (primarily Rome in this book). The story lines are better than average and the characters are reasonably well developed. I recommend that you read "Giotto's Hand", if you can, before "Death and Restoration" for maximum enjoyment.
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on February 28, 2000
Pears has crafted another delight. While perhaps a bit too smooth in places, on the whole the story is presented with aplomb appropriate to a fine writer delivering another in a series of gems. The entire series is to be highly recommended. I have found this perfect for the beach, but it doesn't encourage one to disengage the brain while reading. It presents Italy warmly but comfortably, without oozing too-sweet prose about the country, and gives the reader a bit of an education and a mental work-out as well. (Though not so taxing as to be draining.) Highly recommended.
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on September 26, 2012
I love to read a book by an author who is as smart, or smarter, than me. And Iain Pears is! I had read Death and Restoration a couple of years ago but thought it was time to re-read the book. Enjoyed it as much this time as before. Argyll's wife Flavia is promoted but still an art theft police detective, he is doing art research, and Bottando has been promoted upward to an international post. Restoration of a maybe Carravagio is at work, and a minor icon may instead be major. And an art thief is at work!

As with his other books in this series, thoroughly enjoyable.
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