There is nothing quite as lush as pairing the rich, vibrant world of art history with that of a mystery. Iain Pears, an art historian, pairs the two together in his novel, Death and Restoration. It is the sixth novel in Pears’ Jonathan Argyll series. However, readers who are new to it, will not be lost in what came in books prior. Pears subtly reminds his readers of important past events and relationships that are key to following the mystery in Death and Restoration.
Again, the book opens with the series main characters, Argyll and his soon-to-be wife, Flavia di Stefano. The two are immersed 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 plot is mainly centered around a art-theft, but breaks off into smaller sub-plots that each character seamlessly narrates.
Argyll, for example is bothered by his fiancee’s frequent absences from their wedding planning while, Flavia is more pre-occupied with trying to prove that her revival, Mary Verney is in Rome, bent on master-minding a great art theft. However, everything is changed when it is uncovered that Verney is in Rome to steal a painting, but her reasons for it have nothing to do with personal gain, but rather to free her kidnapped granddaughter Louise from the sadistic Mikis Charanis.
Further questions arise, though, when Verney is supposed to steal the Madonna artifact from San Giovanni. The big question is, why does Mikis Charanis want this artifact? Why would he want the lesser known, not as valuable artifact when he could black mail Verney into stealing the Caravaggio that San Giovanni is known for?
For those who had fallen in love with the Jonathan Argyll series with An Instance of the Fingerpost, they will not be let down by where Pears takes the series in Death and Restoration. Overall, this installment of the series is full-bodied and enticing as the reader is led through the underbelly of the art world and through the lush richness of Baroque-inspired Italy.
Other works in the Jonathan Agryll series includes The Raphael Affair, The Titian Committee, The Bernini Bust, The Last Judgement, and Giotto’s Hand. So far, the series has not been extended past The Immaculate Deception. Pears does have a body of work outside of his Jonathon Agryll series.
Death and Restoration by Iain Pears was published on August 5, 2003 by Berkley Trade with ISBN 0425190420.