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The Raphael Affair (Art History Mystery Series #1)

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Overview

"Deliciously literate" (Kirkus Reviews) and filled with "articulate characters and erudite art commentary" (The New York Times Book Review), this acclaimed series of novels by Iain Pears combines art and history, literature and mystery fiction, with the same passion for detail he displayed in his New York Times bestseller An Instance of the Fingerpost. In The Raphael Affair, the first book in the series, we are introduced to Jonathan Argyll, an enthusiastic young art scholar from England who has followed his ...

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Overview

"Deliciously literate" (Kirkus Reviews) and filled with "articulate characters and erudite art commentary" (The New York Times Book Review), this acclaimed series of novels by Iain Pears combines art and history, literature and mystery fiction, with the same passion for detail he displayed in his New York Times bestseller An Instance of the Fingerpost. In The Raphael Affair, the first book in the series, we are introduced to Jonathan Argyll, an enthusiastic young art scholar from England who has followed his suspicions about a long-lost Raphael painting to a small church in Rome. Not only is the painting in question gone from the site, it has been swiftly purchased, restored, auctioned, and installed in Rome's National Museum. But when the recovered Raphael is just as swiftly destroyed in a fire, Argyll begins to suspect its authenticity…and the innocence of every person in its path.

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Editorial Reviews

Associated Press
"Presents a world of the author knows well in the satisfying way Margaret Truman and Dick Francis set their mysteries in milieus they know..."
Sunday Times
"[A] clever thriler...Pears balances politics, love and danger nicely in a plot that has a cunning and satisfactory outcome."
Houston Post
"Masterful and calls for an encore."
The Guardian
"A felicitous first."
Chronikles
"A better debut could hardly have been made..."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425178928
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/15/2001
  • Series: Art History Mystery Series , #1
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 215,444
  • Product dimensions: 5.32 (w) x 8.32 (h) x 0.74 (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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent!

    Iain Pears knows his art world very well, and can communicate it to us non-art-oriented in a fun, lively, and yet intelligent manner. Aspiring art historian Jonathan Argyll might be American, but he is quite at home in Italy. Having him involved with the Art Squad of the Italian police (exists to track stolen art objects, a serious matter there) in the form of Flavia di Stefano makes for a great start in a series that promises to be a lot of fun and also informative. Flavia's boss, General Bottando, is a great sidekick to the gyrations of the other two. Nothing is straightforward, and yet nothing is improbable enough to pull you out of the story with the thought that 'this is outrageous'. I learned about Raphael and Rome and a fascinating slice of Italian culture, and got hold of the second book, "The Titian Committee", as quickly as possible.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2010

    Not very well-crafted

    Read this art-murder mystery book in connection with a trip to Rome. Hoped it would give me some flavor for the art, history and atmosphere of the city. The book did a bit of that, although not much. Also disappointing was that the book was not particularly well-written, compelling or mysterious. The best part was that it was short, so the ache didn't last long.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews

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