Books by 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 bo

ARCADIA by Iain Pears
Released: Feb. 9, 2016

"A head-scratcher but an ambitious pleasure. When puzzled, press on: Pears' yarn is worth the effort."
Arcadia: a kind of heaven on Earth. Arcade: a place where games are played. Somewhere between the two lies this odd confection by the restless, genre-hopping Pears (Stone's Fall, 2009, etc.).Read full book review >
STONE’S FALL by Iain Pears
Released: May 5, 2009

"Classy crime fiction, delightfully written, with few straight lines in sight."
A learned, witty and splendidly entertaining descent into the demimondes of international espionage, arms dealing, financial hanky-panky and other favorite pastimes of those without conscience. Read full book review >
THE PORTRAIT by Iain Pears
Released: April 21, 2005

"A short story's worth of incident floated on a prickly cushion of aphorism."
A Scottish painter meets his English mentor and former friend after many years, in this poisoned miniature from the author of the behemoth An Instance of the Fingerpost (1998) and The Dream of Scipio (2002). Read full book review >
Released: June 3, 2002

"This imposingly intricate novel begins slowly, makes heavy demands on the reader, and rises to a stunningly dramatic crescendo. Pears has leapt to a new level, creating a novel of ideas even more suspenseful and revelatory than his justly acclaimed mysteries."
The truism that "The evil done by men of goodwill is the worst of all" is given memorable expression in this brilliantly constructed historical novel from the British author of the runaway success An Instance of the Fingerpost (1998). Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2000

"So many secrets are disclosed and so many bridges burned in this tangled, high-spirited seventh case for Flavia and Jonathan (Death and Restoration, 1998, etc.) that it's hard to imagine what Pears might have left for an eighth."
Under Italian law, you can be jailed for two years for paying a ransom for a loved one who's kidnapped. And Prime Minister Antonio Sabauda's not about to do time for the return of a mere painting, even if that painting is an oft-stolen Claude Lorraine borrowed from the Louvre whose safety Sabauda's government has personally guaranteed. So Flavia di Stefano, acting head of Rome's art-theft squad, can't look for Landscape with Cephalis and Procris herself (that would alert the media it's missing) or satisfy the ransom demand with government funds (that would break the law). But, Sabauda delicately hints, if a private donor should make the funds available . . . hours before an anonymous package arrives for Flavia containing the ransom to the last Euro. The teasing puzzle is further complicated when Flavia realizes that the painting's thief, terrorist/performance artist Maurizio Sabbatini, drowned in a tub of plaster not only before picking up the ransom money, but even before making the ransom demand. Meantime, her bridegroom Jonathan Argyll's scholarly interest in an Immaculate Conception painting stolen 40 years ago reveals surprising, sometimes incredible, new roles for Jonathan's old adversary, aging art thief Mary Verney, and Flavia's retiring mentor, General Taddeo Bottando, and inevitably links the two thefts together with every other Italian malfeasance since the Borgias. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1998

Blissfully unaware of the splash her author made earlier this year with his monumental An Instance of the Fingerpost, Flavia di Stefano, of Italy's Art Theft Squad, can think only of what's going to become of her when her boss, Gen. Taddeo Bottando, gets kicked upstairs to a do-nothing Euro-administrative post—until a phone call warning that somebody's going to steal something from the monastery of San Giovanni happens to coincide with the return to Rome of wily suspected art thief Mary Verney (Giotto's Hand, 1997). Figuring that the monastery's only treasure, an important Caravaggio, is probably safe from thieves as long as it's in the middle of a slash-and-burn restoration by ambitious American Daniel Menzies, Flavia elects instead to keep a close watch on Mary. Her instincts are right—Mary, her granddaughter kidnaped to force her hand, is indeed bent on theft—but her precautions don't do a bit of good. A thief attacks old Fr. Xavier MÅnster, head of the resident Order of St. John the Pietist, and makes off—not with the half-restored Caravaggio, but with a neglected icon of the Blessed Virgin. How come? There's so much more to the generous plot, from the suavely handled obligatory rivalry between eminent art historians to the ravings of an elderly monk who thinks he's a thousand-years-dead Patriarch, that Jonathan Argyll, the nominal hero, can take scarcely a moment from his teaching duties to clear up a final mystery or two. Read full book review >
Released: March 9, 1998

Nothing in Pears's five archly amusing art mysteries (Giotto's Hand, p. 839; The Last Judgement, 1996, etc.) hints at the range or depth or boldness of this multifaceted scrutiny of a murder case in Restoration Oxford. Opinionated, influential Dr. Robert Grove is poisoned with arsenic in his New College lodgings. A missing signet ring leads his colleagues to his former servant (and rumored strumpet) Sarah Blundy, who, swiftly brought to trial, confesses and is promptly hanged—and dissected by enthusiastic physician Richard Lower. But the crime, evidently so simple in its events, is presented through the distorting lenses of four narrators whose obsessions place it in dramatically different contexts. Visiting Venetian Marco da Cola, a dandy trained in medicine, who has been treating Sarah's ailing mother Anne, grieves for the ruin of mother and daughter and the wreck of his own friendship with Lower. Sarah's former lover Jack Prestcott, an undergraduate jailed for attacking his guardian, is consumed with proving that his exiled father was hounded to his death innocent of the charge of treason the returning monarch Charles II's supporters had lodged against him. Dr. John Wallis, mathematician and divine, sees no inconsistency between his endless petty intrigues on behalf of Charles's scheming minister Henry Bennet and his vituperative condemnation of Sarah. In the brilliantly illuminated world in which medical experiments, religious and political debates between Roundheads and Royalists, and the founding of the Royal Society bring debates about the nature of science, history, religion, and authority into a focus whose sharpness has a special urgency for our own time, each of these narrators has his own slashingly conflicting claims to make. But it's not until the final narrator, burrowing historian Anthony Wood, weighs in to judge among the sharply competing visions of the earlier narrators that Pears produces his most memorable surprises, or unveils his deepest mysteries. Rashomon meets The Name of the Rose in a triumphant triple-decker that knocks every speck of dust from the historical mystery. (First printing of 80,000; $150,000 ad/promo; Book-of-the-Month main selection) Read full book review >
GIOTTO'S HAND by Iain Pears
Released: July 8, 1997

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. Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1996

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 fiancÇe 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. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1994

Feckless British art expert Jonathan Argyll (The Titian Committee, 1993) should have known it was all too easy when the Arthur M. Moresby Museum's agent, James Langton, popped up out of the blue to buy the Titian whose sale Jonathan was hoping to broker. No sooner has Jonathan arrived in Los Angeles to observe the museum staff's authentication, though, than things go horribly awry. Arthur M. Moresby II is shot dead in his own museum, his killer defeating the state-of-the-art security system by plastering a pÉtÇ sandwich over a crucial camera lens; Moresby's death leaves the museum $3 billion poorer, imperiling the Titian sale for good; and Jonathan's old acquaintance Hector di Souza, a not-quite- reputable dealer who's gone missing along with a Bernini bust he smuggled out of Italy for Moresby, turns up as dead as marble. Fortunately, reports about the smuggled Bernini, together with an attempt on Jonathan's life, bring Flavia di Stefano, his hopeless love from Rome's national art theft squad, on the run to L.A., where she'll fish up a truly staggering number of red herrings from a net of ``tax fiddles, murder, fraud, adultery, theft, framing each other for crimes, eavesdropping, firing people.'' All in all, the cleverest entry yet in this deliciously literate series. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

Flavia di Stefano, junior investigator for the Polizia Art Squad of Rome, has been sent to Venice to assist (actually, to inoffensively not assist) the local carabinieri looking into the murder of American art historian Louise Masterson; Jonathan Argyll, the gawky British dealer's representative Flavia arrested in The Raphael Affair (1992), has come to Venice to negotiate for a mediocre painting with the Marchesa di Mulino, who suddenly turns skittish. The two cases cross with the news that Masterson's committee to authenticate all known works of Titian had run aground on serious disagreements (how serious? Two more committee members will soon be found dead) and that Masterson herself had developed a mysterious interest in the canvas Jonathan was trying to buy—part of the inheritance of the Marchesa's nephew Dr. Lorenzo, another member of the ill-starred Titian committee. As before, literate and cultivated, with a 20's (1520's) cast, and a particularly clever historical analogy saved for dessert. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1992

Fledgling British art historian Jonathan Argyll, picked up for vagrancy when he's found hanging around a pokey Roman church, tells a wild story: He's come to check on his hunch that an obscure Mantini canvas hanging in the church actually conceals a lost Raphael painted beneath. The Mantini is already gone, sold to questionable British art dealer Sir Edward Byrnes, who promptly cleans, exhibits, and auctions it—to Argyll's chagrin—as the Raphael. Or is it? When the heralded painting is torched soon after its installation in Rome's National Museum, General Taddeo Bottando and Falvia di Stefano of the National Art Theft Squad have to join forces with Argyll—an amusingly unreliable ally—to follow a twisted trail of forgery, fraud, and murder. Politely sordid art-dealing background is the highlight of this quietly lighthearted first novel by art-historian Pears (The Discovery of Painting, 1980). Read full book review >