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Immaculate Deception [Paperback]

Iain Pears
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Hardcover CDN $36.57  
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Paperback, July 19 2001 --  
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Audio, Cassette, Audiobook CDN $58.81  
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Book Description

July 19 2001 Jonathan Argyll Mystery

When an important, politically sensitive painting is kidnapped in Rome, Flavia di Stefano, acting head of the Italian Art Theft Squad, is told to get it back at all costs – without causing any embarrassment to the country and without paying the ransom. Put in an impossible position, she turns for help to her old mentor General Taddeo Bottando, who casts a wholly unexpected light on the crime.

In the meantime, her husband, English art historian Jonathan Argyll, embarks on an investigation of his own. As a gift to Bottando, he decides to establish the provenance of a small Renaissance painting, an Immaculate Conception, currently hanging on the wall of the general's apartment.

Absorbing and ingeniously plotted, The Immaculate Deception is both a fascinating art-history puzzle and a gripping murder mystery as the search for the truth uncovers shocking secrets from the past and leads Argyll and Flavia into the path of some very dangerous enemies indeed.


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From Amazon

A good working rule for the police is to have as little as possible to do with politicians, but Flavia, acting head of the Rome Art Squad, finds herself deprived of that luxury when the Prime Minister involves himself in the case of a painting hijacked for ransom... Iain Pears' new thriller The Immaculate Deception picks up the story of Flavia and her British art-dealer husband Jonathan at a point where they are thinking seriously about the rest of their lives--Flavia is pregnant and Jonathan is in the process of selling off his remaining stock. The last thing they need is for Flavia to find herself at the heart of a major scandal involving illegal handovers of ransom, the last gasp of 1970s terrorism and a performance artist who has drowned in a vat of plaster. Meanwhile, Jonathan sets out to track down an unattributed painting owned by Flavia's former boss, and uncovers some neat little mysteries of his own... Art scholarship and police work are not that like each other, but Iain Pears wittily explores what analogies between them there are; he is intelligent about art, and marriage and Italian politics. This is a worthy addition to a charming series. --Roz Kaveney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Jonathan Argyll, accompanied by his new wife, Flavia di Stefano, makes his seventh appearance in this confusing case of a stolen painting, murder and intrigue, following 1998's well-received An Instance of the Fingerpost. Antonio Sabauda, the Italian prime minister, asks Flavia, now acting head of the national art squad, to recover Claude Lorraine's Landscape with Cephalis and Procris, stolen from an Italian museum while on loan from the Louvre. Flavia, however, must not use public money for the requested ransom. As Flavia's former boss, Gen. Taddeo Bottando, has told her, "Prime ministers? Oh, they can ruin your life." She finds this is true on many levels. Meanwhile, Argyll, the art expert, is snooping into the provenance of a small painting owned by Bottando. Soon Argyll and Flavia find that almost everyone they talk to in their respective investigations has a hidden agenda. Who is behind all the shady goings-on in the art world? Is it Prime Minister Sabauda, General Bottando or another person with something to protect? Ultimately, as people's motives become clearer and one corpse after another turns up, Argyll and Flavia find that they have to make some very disturbing choices involving their own sense of morality. A personal secret that Flavia harbors until the end adds some intrigue. While the author nicely portrays the Italian art world, readers looking for a scintillating mystery will have to seek elsewhere.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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First Sentence
One morning, a fine May morning in Rome, when the sun was beaming through the clouds of carbon monoxide and dust and giving a soft, fresh feel to the day, Flavia di Stefano sat immobile in a vast traffic jam that began in the Piazza del Popolo and ended somewhere near the Piazza Venezia. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy reading, intelligently written May 17 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
There are times when even the most sophisticated readers need a break and want to read what I call an "airplane" book--"beach" book would also be a good description--at the same time it's hard not to get annoyed with poor writing, unbelievable dialogue and dumb plots. If you've had this problem, try Pears' books. This is the first of the series I've read, and found a good plot with an interesting smidgen of art history and modern Italian culture woven in. I had the added bonus of reading it during a flight home from a 2-1/2 week sojourn in Tuscany and Umbria! This book bears no resemblance to "Instance of the Fingerpost," which was a serious literary work; this is for fun!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Another Enjoyable Page-Turner from Pears Nov. 24 2000
Format:Hardcover
Iain Pears' mystery series is a delight from start to finish. This latest book is no exception with our heroine, Flavia diStefano, fighting her way through the confusion brought about by the theft and ransom of a painting from the local museum. The political ramifications of the recovery of the painting are a maze through which Flavia (with the help of her newly-minted husband, Joanthan Argyll, our hero) must make her way. Complicating the recovery process is the involvement of Flavia's former superior, Taddeo Bottando, and art-thief extraordinaire, Mary Verney.
This book is a delightful addition to the previous entries in this series, although at time the action becomes a little to convoluted for belief. A heartily enjoyable book in a wonderful series. Deduct one star for the small amount of interaction between the main characters (Flavia & Jonathan)- they are a riot when they are detecting together. In this book they spend most of their time jaunting about independently, only meeting up again briefly for the conclusion.
Pears has left himself an opening with the end of this book to either end the series or to proceed with it in a slightly new direction. One can only hope that he is currently working on the next Flavia-Jonathan mystery....
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thanks to The Fingerpost� Nov. 23 2000
Format:Hardcover
Mr. Pears authored the brilliant work, "An Instance At The Fingerpost". His newest work, "The Immaculate Deception", is his first since writing that novel, which elevated him as an Author, and greatly expanded his audience. This book is the latest of his series that feature Jonathan, Flavia, and the balance of the Art Theft Squad, and I enjoyed it more than any other episode. His skills from Fingerpost are evident here, and the briefer work is the beneficiary.
This ongoing storyline is light fare if compared to Fingerpost, but a comparison would be without merit, for these are a group of novellas and not a singular expansive work. This addition to the series is much stronger than previous works. The dialogue is sharper, the wit more clever, and most importantly, more original. Like Michael Dibdin who Authors the Aurelio Zen series, Mr. Pears sustained the tension throughout the work. The plot twists were well placed, and benefited from the 40 plus years the story uses to unwind itself.
This book is clearly the last, as we have known the series, Mr. Pears seems to be making irrevocable changes, but future works will branch from this work, and the potential for further originality of plot without the loss of the familiar, is clearly their for Mr. Pears to create. I thought his handling of the adjustment to the series was particularly well managed. He did not resort to melodrama, rather he begins a transition that is logical, untainted by literary cliché, and will give new life to a series that has steadily improved.
Good reading, good fun, enjoy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Praise for Iain Pears Dec 27 2000
Format:Hardcover
The latest installment from Iain Pears, and not a disappointment. The heroine, Flavia Di Stefano and her former roommate/current husband Jonathan Argyll once again dive into an art history mystery set in beautifully described Italy. This time a "mystery painting" and a cleverly planned daylight robbery move the novel along.
This story artfully intertwines the lives of Mary Verney, (everyones favorite art thief) with that of Taddeo Bottando-Flavia's boss, and the handy work of the two "detectives". Taddeo actually takes center stage in this novel for a while, which is a refreshing change of pace. We learn about how he became a part of Italy's Art Theft Squad, and how he plans to leave it.
The book also holds two major surprises, both dealing with issues close to Flavia. Iain's latest may be his greatest, and certainly leaves us hanging on for the next novel in this series of Art History Mysteries.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Solid Entertainment Dec 14 2001
Format:Hardcover
This is the latest installment of a mystery series starring the Italian detective Flavia di Stefano and her boyfriend, the art dealer/teacher Jonathan Argyll. These books are well written mysteries with good plots, attractive characters, and an element of screwball/romantic comedy. Pears has inverted the usual stereotypes by pairing a highly competent Italian woman with a somewhat flighty British man. Pears draws on his training as an art historian to base all the mysteries on art theft or fraud or something related to art.
The present book is a good addition to the series. Pears is inventive enough not to have lost momentum and has kept the professional and personal lives of his characters evolving in a way that prevents them from becoming stale. Good bedtime reading.
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