Caravaggio expert Luther Mason can hardly contain his excitement when he gets a call from aging Mafia don Luigi Sensi...

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MURDER AT THE NATIONAL GALLERY

Caravaggio expert Luther Mason can hardly contain his excitement when he gets a call from aging Mafia don Luigi Sensi offering to sell him the Grottesca, a never-seen masterpiece that fell off a truck. All Washington is abuzz with the news that Mason's using the new canvas, its provenance suitably whitewashed for public consumption, to anchor his Caravaggio exhibit. But Mason has even bigger news up his sleeve: He plans to commission two copies of the painting from alcoholic forger Jacques Saison, sell one to unscrupulous San Francisco collector Franco del Brasco, return the other to the Italian authorities, and keep the original Grottesca for himself. It's a mad, intricate plan, quite unlike anything Truman (Murder on the Potomac, 1994, etc.) has presented before, and it's made considerably more heart-rending, though hardly more cogent or plausible, by her closeups of Mason's unhappy relationships with his demanding mother, his heartless ex-wife, and his narcissistic son. Here's a man who's obviously riding for a fall, and when he finally becomes the eponymous corpse (the third of five involved in the Caravaggio fraud), the story rather runs out of steam, leaving nothing but wife-and-husband lawyers Annabel and Mackensie Smith to track down the lesser fry still trying to promote a dishonest dollar from Mason's legacy. The intricate, unconvincing caper makes you wonder whether the tale itself could be a forgery, though the ranks upon ranks of obscure eminences and the general absence of mystery mark it as genuine.

Pub Date: July 1, 1996

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1996