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Death and Restoration (1996)

by Iain Pears

Series: Jonathan Argyll (6)

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6821433,988 (3.56)12
'This book dances with sunlight and colour, faded patinas and shifting standards, with humour and knowledge making easy companions' Mail on Sunday The monastery of San Giovanni has few treasures -- only a painting doubtfully attributed to Caravaggio. So Flavia di Stefano of Rome's Art Squad is surprised to receive a tip-off that a raid is being planned. The raid happens, but the thieves are disturbed and snatch the wrong painting, a curious icon of the Madonna, remarkable only for the affection in which it is held by the local population. Or is this what the thieves wanted all along? Does the legend of the icon's miraculous powers hold any clue? And who murdered the French dealer found in the Tiber soon afterwards? Flavia, with the help of English art dealer Jonathan Argyll, immerses herself in the intricacies and intrigues of monastic and police politics in an attempt to solve the double mystery, but the solution that awaits her is murkier and more complex than anyone could have known.… (more)
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English (13)  Italian (1)  All languages (14)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
A very standard mystery. A little bit of history, a little bit of art, likeable enough characters and a nice background story at the monastery ( )
  cspiwak | Mar 6, 2024 |
Flavia di Stefano is asked to take over as temporary head of Rome’s art theft squad when her boss is tapped for an international bureaucratic role, and one of her first headaches is the theft of a holy icon from a local monastery; this appears to be an unimportant item, but for centuries the local population has believed the icon protects them from plague and other disasters, so recovery of the thing is of great importance in terms of publicity for the squad. In the meantime, Flavia and her fiance Jonathan Argyll (now happily teaching rather than trying to make a living as an art dealer) are both concerned when a master thief turns up in Rome. Although she claims to be retired and on holiday in Italy, both wonder if she could ever change her thieving ways, and when injuries and deaths related to the monastery are thrown into the mix, all bets are off….This is the sixth in the seven-book series featuring Flavia and Jonathan, and it is as whimsical and entertaining as the earlier stories, with the addition of some characters we hadn’t met before and some that we had. The depictions of Rome and of Italian bureaucracy are very enjoyable, and the main characters are people one wishes one could meet in real life. I think this series should be read in sequence (beginning with “The Rafael Affair”), but that is no burden as the books are a lot of fun; recommended! ( )
  thefirstalicat | Dec 11, 2023 |
Come i suoi predecessori, anche questo romanzo è piacevole e avvincente, nonostante alcune ingenuità - che a Pears si perdonano volentieri. ( )
  LaPizia | Aug 3, 2017 |
This was the best mystery novel I've read in a very long time. It was MUCH better than either the Da Vinci Code or Angels and Demons. (I may not be an art restorer, but as far as I noticed, at least nothing in Pears' background [the Italian art world] was WRONG!)

The Art Theft Squad has received an anonymous tip that a small monastery in Rome may soon be the victim of a heist - but their only valuable painting (a Caravaggio of doubtful provenance) is currently under restoration by an art restorer of dubious reputation. Still, the police warn the monks (who are in the midst of an internal political struggle) to be careful... but soon, an elderly member of the community is found coshed in the head... and of course, an artwork is missing....

The team of Flavia, Italian Art Theft Squad officer, and her boyfriend, academic art historian Jonathan Argyll, works well, and all the characters - even the villains - were colorful, reasonably well-rounded, interesting characters.

But I was most impressed by the plot - a steady tension was kept up - it kept taking unexpected turns, revealing new layers of deception and new motivations for nearly everyone involved.... some things I really feared/expected would happen didn't - but what did happen all made sense.... (I hate it when, in a mystery, something is revealed, and you're just like, "What? Where did THAT come from? You didn't give me ANY clues!") ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
I have become a fan of Iain Pears after reading his Death and Restoration, a novel in the Jonathan Argyll series.

The story about a mysterious murder and theft in an obscure church in Rome has a subplot which takes the reader to the last days of Byzantium. The icon that had disappeared from the church turns out to be, possibly, the sacred hodigitria, painted by St Luke himself.

It is this subplot which is dear to my Russian heart: I grew up knowing, or, rather, believing, that one of the most sacred of Byzantine icons, the Vladimir Mother of God was brought to Russia by the daughter of the last Emperor when she married the Grand Prince of Moscow. Legend holds that it is as old as Christianity itself and was painted in a live sitting from Mary, mother of Jesus. When Constantinople fell to the Turk in 1453, a medieval Russian book says, the Holy Spirit rose from the fallen city and descended on Moscow blessing the emerging centre of Eastern Church as the Third Rome.

It was amusing for me to read a different version based on the same historical episode. The holiest icon is smuggled through Turkish naval blockade not to Russia, but to Rome...

Iain Pears' novels are in between women's and men's literature - light, romantic, but full of well-grounded factual material - the author is an authority in the history of art. There is also, unlike Dan Brown's books, no hidden agenda. Pears is refreshing and enlightening, pure pleasure to read.
1 vote Sashura | Dec 10, 2009 |
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'This book dances with sunlight and colour, faded patinas and shifting standards, with humour and knowledge making easy companions' Mail on Sunday The monastery of San Giovanni has few treasures -- only a painting doubtfully attributed to Caravaggio. So Flavia di Stefano of Rome's Art Squad is surprised to receive a tip-off that a raid is being planned. The raid happens, but the thieves are disturbed and snatch the wrong painting, a curious icon of the Madonna, remarkable only for the affection in which it is held by the local population. Or is this what the thieves wanted all along? Does the legend of the icon's miraculous powers hold any clue? And who murdered the French dealer found in the Tiber soon afterwards? Flavia, with the help of English art dealer Jonathan Argyll, immerses herself in the intricacies and intrigues of monastic and police politics in an attempt to solve the double mystery, but the solution that awaits her is murkier and more complex than anyone could have known.

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