From internationally bestselling author Iain Pears comes the seventh in his Jonathan Argyll series -- an intriguing mystery of love, loss, and artistic license. For newlywed and Italian art theft squad head Flavia di Stefano, the honeymoon is over when a painting, borrowed from the Louvre and en route to a celebratory exhibition, is stolen. Desperate to avoid public embarrassment -- and to avoid paying a ransom -- the Italian prime minister leans hard on Flavia to get it back quickly and quietly. Across town, her husband, art historian Jonathan Argyll, begins an investigation of his own, tracing the past of a small Renaissance painting -- an Immaculate Conception -- owned by Flavia's mentor, retired general Taddeo Bottando. Soon both husband and wife uncover astonishing and chilling secrets, and Flavia's investigation takes a sudden turn from the search for an art thief to the hunt for a murderer.
Early on there’s mention of an old nemesis; an art thief who got away with it and I knew she’d figure into the solution, but I was a tad surprised at how. Maybe if I’d read previous books first I’d have suspected. While I have to take the author’s art expertise on faith, I have my doubts because he’s one of those writers who thinks a bullet spins a person around and knocks them backwards. Not on this planet with our current laws of physics. Sigh. It’s so disappointing to read that particular line of bullshit over and over again. Will someone get a clue, please?
Anyway, overall it’s a satisfying mystery with plenty of pastoral Italian atmosphere. It makes you want to wander Florence and Tuscany drinking wine, eating olives and appreciating art. I may pick up earlier volumes in the series when I need something relatively cozy.
Anyway - the plot cleverly balances Jonathan's quest to discover the provenance of a painting owned by Flavia's boss, who is planning retirement, (Of course this involves sources dropping dead and uncomfortable secrets coming to light...) and Flavia's involvement with an art theft case - where the political implications reach straight up to the Prime Minister. Radical terrorists and plots to bring down the government may be involved - but are these just dead-end leads? Again, the villains are not quite who one might expect them to be, and lies and deceptions are layered one upon the other....