Top positive review
29 people found this helpful
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.