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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.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-684-81461-7
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1998


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