Death and Restoration
For some reason, the detective and crime thriller genre seems very well suited to long series, rather than standalone books. The only detective/crime novel I have read since I started this booklog which wasn't part of a series was Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone. For some reason, it also seems easier to keep the quality of a series high in this genre, which is not always the case in other genres. How many fantasy or science fiction series have not started out strong only to degenerate over time? But with detective series, often the last book in the series is at least as good as the first and often better.
Death and Restoration is no exception to the rule, as it is one of the novels in a series of detective stories starring Jonathan Argyll, English art dealer now living in Rome and Flavia di Stefano, working for the Rome police's Art Squad. Whereas an earlier novel I had read in this series, The Last Judgement had Jonathan as its main protagonist, this time Flavia is in the foreground, with Jonathan playing a supporting role.
The story revolves around a tip-off Flavia has gotten about an upcoming raid on an obscure monastry which houses one great treasure, a painting attributed to Caravaggio, though this attribution is doubtful. Flavia is skeptical that this raid is actually going to happen, but indeed, somebody breaks into the building, knocks down a monk and steals the wrong thing, an icon of no great value, or is it?
What I liked about Death and Restoration is that it is very well done light entertainment, with no pretense to be anything else. Both Flavia and Jonathan are well rounded characters, with real lifes that actually change over the course of the book and series. The secondary characters are less realistic however, sometimes descending into cozy mystery stereotype (the reluctant pensioned cat burglar). There is an enthusiasm for art and for Rome in Iain Pers' writing that made this book a delight to read. Perfect for a day you don't want anything heavy.
Webpage created 30-08-2004, last updated 04-11-2004