Set in Rome, The Raphael Affair features the perpetually beset General Bottando of the Italian National Art Theft Squad; his glamorous assistant, Flavia di Stefano; and Jonathan Argyll, a British art historian. When Jonathan is arrested for breaking into an obscure church in Rome, he claims that it contains a long-lost Raphael hidden under a painting by Mantini. The painting disappears - then reappears in the hands of the top British art dealer, Edward Byrnes. How has Byrnes found out about the hidden masterpiece, and whom is he acting for?
There is also the curious matter of the safe deposit box full of sketches closely resembling features of the newly discovered painting. A hideous act of vandalism occurs, then murder. Bottando faces the most critical challenge of his career, and Jonathan and Flavia find themselves in unexpected danger.
“A clever thriller.…Pears balances politics, love, and danger nicely in a plot that has a cunning and satisfactory outcome.” (Sunday Times)
“Masterful and calls for an encore.” (Houston Post)
“Presents a world the author knows well in the satisfying way Margaret Truman and Dick Francis set their mysteries in milieus they know.” (Associated Press)
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Beautiful art, elegant wit and amusing writing
Very happy to see Iain Pears's art history mysteries finally coming to audible. He's a superb writer (see An Instance of the Fingerpost if you want a long, enthralling listen), and lucky for us, a superb mystery plotter too. A hapless English academic, the delightful Italian policewoman who interrogates and then fascinates him, and the avuncular chief of police are all finely drawn, and the story bubbles along with pockets of hilarity. This is one of Ralph Cosham's very best outings—he's eminently suited to both the silly-ass and the thoughtful side of Jonathan. I hope the other books follow quickly!
As Good as it Gets
I loved these books when I first read them a decade ago. I recently began to reread them and when I found this unabridged on Audible.com I was very excited. I love audio books and to be able to listen to this book was a pure delight. It was all I had hoped it would be.
Jonathan Argyll is the perfect combination of bumbling humility and skilled historian, and he more than anyone cannot tell the difference sometimes. It's impossible not to root for him in his lovelife and his professional life. What's wonderful about this series is that Jonathan's life is not a series of successes piled one after another, it's more like two steps forward and one step back. Sort of like most people's lives.
Ralph Cosham's English accent hit the mark perfectly for the characters and his Italian accents were unstrained and natural. He did not read his female characters by putting on a falsetto voice, for which I am very grateful. Nothing ruins a book faster, in my estimation.
I love art history and this is what attracted me to the books in the first place, so this element adds greatly to the novels for me. However, I don't think an art history background is required to enjoy and understand the storylines.
Iain Pears' mystery novels are intelligent, funny and stand the test of time.