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

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 ...
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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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780783883625
  • Publisher: Cengage Gale
  • Publication date: 1/1/1998
  • Series: Art History Mystery Series , #5
  • Pages: 305
  • Product dimensions: 6.54 (w) x 9.53 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

Iain Pears

Iain Pears was born in 1955. Educated at Wadham College, Oxford, he has worked as a journalist, an art historian, and a television consultant in England, France, Italy, and the United States. He is the author of seven highly praised detective novels, a book of art history, and countless articles on artistic, financial, and historical subjects, as well as the international bestseller An Instance of the Fingerpost He lives in Oxford, England.

Biography

Before 1990, the only book Oxford art historian Iain Pears had published was a history of the arts in 17th- and 18th-century England. But as a Reuters news correspondent in England, France, Italy, and the United States, he had produced articles on everything from soccer matches to stock market reports.

When Pears decided to combine his writing skills with his background in art history, the result was The Raphael Affair, the first book in a series of neatly crafted, highly original "art history mysteries." Packed with fascinating details about art history and juicy tidbits about the art-buying world, the series revolves around British art historian Jonathan Argyll, with Flavia di Stefano of the Italian National Art Theft Squad as his partner in crime-fighting (and eventually in marriage).

The books were a hit with readers and critics of mysteries—Kirkus Reviews called The Bernini Bust (1993) "the cleverest entry yet in this deliciously literate series." Still, Pears remained relatively unknown in the wider literary world until the 1998 publication of An Instance of the Fingerpost. This weighty philosophical mystery novel was compared to Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose in its scope and ambition, and like The Name of the Rose, it was an international bestseller.

In it, Pears "brilliantly exploits the stormy, conspiracy-heavy history of England after the death of Oliver Cromwell to fashion a believable portrait of 17th-century political and intellectual life as well as a whodunit of almost mesmerizing complexity," wrote Richard Bernstein in The New York Times Book Review. Pears's "baroque and ingenious" book (as Andrew Miller called it) relates the murder of an Oxford don from the point of view of four different narrators, only one of them reliable. Along the way, it explores epistemological questions about observation and insight, superstition and science, reason and faith. The 685-page volume sold more than 120,000 copies in hardcover—an impressive figure considering the book's density and subject matter.

The popularity of An Instance of the Fingerpost helped boost sales of Pears' mysteries, and fans of Jonathan Argyll were gratified when Pears brought out another installment in the series, The Immaculate Deception (2000). But readers would have to wait a bit longer for another Pears novel. The Dream of Scipio (2002) was worth the wait. The book weaves together three stories, set in Provence in three different historical crisis points: the end of the Roman Empire in the 5th century; the Black Death in the 14th century; and World War II in the mid-20th century. The stories are linked by a manuscript titled The Dream of Scipio (after Cicero's dialogue of the same name), and by thematic concerns with passion, wisdom and power.

Allan Massie, reviewing The Dream of Scipio for The Scotsman, called it "erudite, even demandingly intellectual…If the highest test of a work of imaginative literature is whether it can make you think and feel at the same time, this novel passes it."

Good To Know

Pears mentioned in an interview that he gave a Harry Potter book to a godchild before Harry Potter became widely known. When his favorite books achieve fame, he added, it's "delightful for the authors, and well-deserved…but I always feel ever so slightly betrayed when one of my private joys becomes public property like that."

In another interview, Pears said he had too many favorite painters to list, but included David Hockney, Nicolas Poussin, and James Whistler as "current favorites."

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    1. Hometown:
      Oxford, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      1955
    1. Education:
      Ph.D., Oxford University

Table of Contents

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