DEATH AND A MADONNA by Joan O'Hagan

DEATH AND A MADONNA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Murder at the ancient, abandoned Benedictine monastery of San Donato--where a group of Rome-dwelling English/American ladies (bankers' wives) have gathered to admire the frescoes and hear another smashing lecture from aging, charismatic art-historian Charles Mowbray. It's a steamy, stormy assemblage. Beverley Backhouse and Hedda Hardegen are (it's hinted) lesbian lovers, though Beverley is also dallying with a Dutch art-dealer (who has tagged along). Dr. Mowbray's lush Italian wife Rafaella is hated by both Beverley (whose husband adores Rafaella) and pouty artist Juliette Deneuve (who adores Dr. Mowbray). Meanwhile, too, Rafaella is rekindling her old flame for art-gallery-owner Renato Barbicinti--another tag-along, like rich Japanese art-collector Mr. Tsuda. So there are suspects galore when Rafaella is shot and pushed off a cliff--though the subsequent murder of Mr. Tsuda is (initially) more surprising. And once Commissario Gadda (who arrives by police helicopter) realizes that all the mayhem is linked to a recently stolen Bellini masterpiece, the two-part solution becomes clear rather quickly. Few surprises, little drama, and no strongly appealing people amid the large cast--but the posh expatriate scene is sketched with tart edge, and the art-world/art-history textures add a bit of richness to this light, mildly ironic diversion.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Doubleday