The Last Judgement (Art History Mystery Series #4)


As deaths go, art dealer Jonathan Argyll has seen better - the last moments of Socrates, as rendered by a mediocre eighteenth-century artist, seems an unlikely painting to attract much attention. But it has found a buyer, an affluent businessman living in Jonathan's adopted city of Rome. In an exchange of favors with an art dealer colleague, Jonathan unluckily offers to transport the Death of Socrates from Paris back to Rome. The assignment seems routine enough. The Parisian art dealer will package the painting ...
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1996-04-03 Hardcover New NEW-Mint cover, tight binding, clean text.

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As deaths go, art dealer Jonathan Argyll has seen better - the last moments of Socrates, as rendered by a mediocre eighteenth-century artist, seems an unlikely painting to attract much attention. But it has found a buyer, an affluent businessman living in Jonathan's adopted city of Rome. In an exchange of favors with an art dealer colleague, Jonathan unluckily offers to transport the Death of Socrates from Paris back to Rome. The assignment seems routine enough. The Parisian art dealer will package the painting and arrange the paperwork. All Jonathan must do is carry it to its final destination. And, of course, he will then be reunited with his girlfriend, Flavia di Stefano, who just happens to work for Rome's Art Theft Squad. It sounds like a fine plan, until things start to go wrong. Jonathan begins to realize that everything is not as it should be when a stranger approaches him at the train station and attempts to run off with the painting. Why would anybody go to such risk for a relatively unimportant piece of art? The answer becomes no clearer when Jonathan finally delivers his precious parcel to Arthur Muller, its new owner in Rome. After an initial inspection of the artwork, Muller seems distinctly less interested than the would-be thief, even asking Jonathan to arrange a sale to a new buyer. But if Muller doesn't want to keep the painting, somebody else desperately wants it. As events soon prove, somebody will even kill to possess it.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The latest (mis)adventure of art historian Jonathan Argyll delivers its plot twists at a rapid clip right up to the closing pages, where Jonathan's lover, Flavia di Stefano of Rome''s Art Theft Department, cuts straight to the tale's core of murderous greed. Jonathan agrees to hand-deliver a small, undistinguished painting from a Paris art dealer to Arthur Muller, the buyer in Rome. But in short order, someone tries to steal the painting from Jonathan; Muller is tortured and murdered; a man carrying both Muller's and Jonathan's addresses is also killed; and French authorities demand that Jonathan return the painting, which might be stolen. While Jonathan restores the painting to its rightful owner, who turns out to be a hero from the French Resistance, Flavia discovers that Muller was obsessed with learning about his father-whose own wartime death and Resistance involvement were apparently less honorable. Graced with a sharp intellect and terrier-like tenacity, Flavia charges on, even when Jonathan's courage flags and the French powers-that-be are deliberately unhelpful. By giving his sleuths an ample supply of dirty little secrets to unearth and solve, Pears (The Bernini Bust) keeps them and his readers well occupied. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Jonathan Argyll, British art dealer and sleuth, delivers an obscure 18th-century painting to a Parisian dealer's client in Rome. The client, however, ends up dead. Argyll and his fiance, Flavia de Stefano, pursue the murderer as well as information about the painting. A solidly enjoyable series.
Emily Melton
Jonathan Argyll, British art dealer, and his amour, Flavia de Stefano, a member of Rome's art-theft squad, have decided to marry after happy months of living together. But first, there's business to tend to. On a buying trip to Paris, Jonathan is asked by a colleague to deliver a valuable painting to a client in Rome. He soon discovers that whoever is interested in this picture seems to wind up dead. The trail leads both Jonathan and Flavia from Rome to Paris and back, unearthing in the process a story that began with the French Resistance during World War II and has extended its tendrils to the present day, where familial jealousy, greed over an inheritance, and unrequited love provide the perfect motives for murder. In the odd moment when Jonathan and Flavia aren't detecting, they carry on a delightful courtship that provides nearly as much enjoyment as the surprising plot. A sophisticated, adventurous, and gripping story that is sure to hold wide appeal.
Kirkus Reviews
When will Jonathan Argyll learn? This time, the budding international art dealer with a nose for trouble volunteers to deliver a minor French painting to its new owner in Rome, only to find on his arrival that (1) the buyer, Arthur Muller, no longer wants it; (2) by the next day Muller's been tortured and killed; and (3) back in France, the canvas has been reported stolen. Even as Argyll's tracing the painting's ties to the ugly betrayal of a Resistance cell in wartime France, his unofficial fiancée Flavia di Stefano, of Rome's Art Squad, is getting ready, as usual, to save him from his own impetuosity—and from more of the worst judgment boasted by any fictional detective outside the funny pages.

Though the flashback to historical intrigue barely 50 years old is something of a novelty for Pears (The Bernini Bust, 1994, etc.), Argyll and Flavia's fourth is as densely plotted as ever.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684814599
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 4/3/1996
  • Series: Art History Mystery Series , #4
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.79 (w) x 8.77 (h) x 0.95 (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.


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:
    1. Education:
      Ph.D., Oxford University

Table of Contents

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