Giotto's Hand (Art History Mystery Series #5)

Giotto's Hand (Art History Mystery Series #5)

by Iain Pears
     
 

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General Taddeo Bottando of Rome's Art Theft Squad is in trouble: his theory that a single master criminal, dubbed "Giotto" - for the fourteenth-century Florentine painter about whom little is known - is behind a string of major thefts has aroused the scorn of his archenemy and rival, the bureaucrat Corrado Argan. Some clever thief has stolen more than two dozen… See more details below

Overview

General Taddeo Bottando of Rome's Art Theft Squad is in trouble: his theory that a single master criminal, dubbed "Giotto" - for the fourteenth-century Florentine painter about whom little is known - is behind a string of major thefts has aroused the scorn of his archenemy and rival, the bureaucrat Corrado Argan. Some clever thief has stolen more than two dozen paintings since 1963, always choosing unphotographed works that would be difficult to identify. Bottando thinks he sees a pattern, but a recent arrest means he may be wrong, and the hated Argan, who clearly wants Bottando's job, may be right again. Bottando is fortunate in his supporters, however - especially in Flavia di Stefano and her friend, English art dealer Jonathan Argyll. When a strange letter arrives on Bottando's desk, he hopes that the confession of a dying woman may provide just the clue he needs to find the mysterious Giotto. As Flavia hurries to Florence to interview the writer of the letter, the elderly Maria Fancelli, Jonathan sets off for England, where he will meet with Geoffrey Arnold Forster, a man who may hold many of the answers if only he will share them. But when Jonathan arrives in Norfolk, he discovers a body and a mystery that could lead to the greatest art find of his career.

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Editorial Reviews

San Jose Mercury News
A whimsical take on the scruples of the art trade, on English food and plumbing and on Italian bureaucracy.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
British art dealer Jonathan Argyll's business is falling becauseas a fellow dealer tells himhe cares too much about the stuff he works with and lacks the killer instinct. Both criticisms apply as well to the latest in Pears's series (afterThe Last Judgement, 1996) about Argyll and his two friends on Rome's Art Theft Squad, General Bottando and Flavia di Stefano. Pears certainly knows and loves his art; Argyll's pleasure and excitement at realizing that a forgotten sketch is a lost treasure bounces off the page. His writing is smooth and often delightful ("...he stirred sugar into his coffee and then sipped at the thick syrupy mixture that made life worthwhile"), and there's a jolly subplot as Bottando and Flavia get some revenge on a smarmy bureaucrat. But there's really only one murder here and very little action or danger as Argyll and Flavia as move through Italy and England on the trail of an art thief whom Bottando has nicknamed Giotto because of his expertise and virtual invisibility. And most readers will be disappointed by recognizing Giotto's identity long before Argyll does. (July)
Kirkus Reviews
Now that fledgling art dealer Jonathan Argyll has finally consummated his rather foolish romance with Flavia di Stefano, of Rome's Art Theft Department (The Last Judgment, 1996, etc.), the two of them can finally turn their full-time energies to tracking down stolen Italian masters. But this time they don't even need to nose out secrets; the secrets come to them. First there's a tearful confession from Maria Fancelli that 30 years ago she helped her seducer, shadowy English dealer Geoffrey Forster, steal an Uccello; then, after Jonathan flies to England and phones Forster, there's a grudging invitation to discuss the painting, which has to be canceled when Jonathan finds Forster dead; finally, there are statements by two independent witnesses that finger Forster for unsolved thefts of paintings by Fra Angelico and Pollaiulo—and strongly suggest he may have been the wily master thief Flavia's boss, General Taddeo Bottando, has dubbed Giotto. Can Jonathan, short of documentation when somebody breaks the police seals on Forster's house and burns his papers, tie Forster in to all of Giotto's 31 suspected thefts—and Pears's trademark, another sensational centuries-old art find—in time to save Bottando from the officious bureaucrat who's baying for his resignation? As a final twist makes clear, collecting all that evidence is easy compared to the climactic challenge Jonathan will have to meet.

Urbane and amusing as ever, with surprising new depths of temptation for the hero—though series veterans won't be fooled.

From the Publisher
“Pears has a whimsical take on the scruples of the art trade, on English food and plumbing and on Italian bureaucracy…A sweet, art world ‘cozy.’”—San Jose Mercury News

“Art, crime, and Italy mix well…Pears masterfully juggles his plot elements while providing delightful diversion in the contrasting manners of his English and Italian characters.”—Booklist

“Fine art, quirky characters and scenes set in Rome and an English country village add to the joys of Giotto’s Hand…A neat twist at the end is the cherry on this fudge sundae of a mystery.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780425173589
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
03/28/2000
Series:
Art History Mystery Series, #5
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
4.22(w) x 6.80(h) x 0.82(d)

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