(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Iain Pears, in his Jonathan Argyll series, introduces the mystery reader to the world of art collecting and art theft. It is a world populated by art historians, collectors, and dealers who are often less than scrupulous; thieves who are willing to murder to obtain valuable paintings; and the Italian National Art Theft Squad, which is beset by never-ending bureaucratic problems and politics, making recovery of stolen art difficult. The novels form a subgenre of their own: the art-history mystery. Pears’s mysteries appeal to a wide variety of readers. They combine elements of the police procedural, the amateur sleuth novel, the thriller, and the cozy in an entertaining yet erudite narrative. The Jonathan Argyll series foreshadows Pears’s voluminous historical mystery An Instance of the Fingerpost (1998). Filled with complex plots, likable characters, various cultural settings, and a light ironic tone, Pears’s mystery novels have earned him recognition as an international best-selling author.