Iain Pears Analysis


(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.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Coale, Sam. “Books: A Painter, a Critic, and Some Cruel Truths.” Review of The Portrait, by Iain Pears. Providence Journal, May 1, 2005, p. E07. A favorable review of a work about a painter seeking revenge who invites an art critic to his place and paints his portrait. This suspenseful tale shares qualities with Pears’s mystery works.

Dirda, Michael. “The Final Deduction.” Review of An Instance of the Fingerpost, by Iain Pears. Washington Post, March 8, 1988, p. X01. Reviewer praises the historical mystery, calling it an imaginative, original intellectual thriller.

Heller, Prudence. Review of The Titian Committee, by Iain Pears. The Plain Dealer, February 2, 1994, p. 9F. Review of this Argyll book about the death of a member of the Titian Committee finds the characters and depiction of Venice interesting and the pace fast-moving.

Ott, Bill. Review of The Immaculate Deception, by Iain Pears. Booklist 102, no. 17 (May 1, 2006): 12. A favorable review of this book in the Argyll series that notes that although the characters are bound together by their dislike of institutions, they are not cynical and are able to enjoy life, which livens the series.

Palmer, Alan. Fictional Minds. Lincoln: University of Nebraska, 2004. Discusses use of situated identity in Giotto’s Hand.

Pears, Iain. The Discovery of Painting: The Growth of Interest in the Arts in England, 1690-1768. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1988. Gives insights into the development of the world of art collecting, which Pears portrays in his Argyll series. Considers the art market, auctions, dealers, and collectors.

Scaggs, John. Crime Fiction. New York: Routledge, 2005. Contains a chapter on historical crime fiction as well as one on mystery and detective fiction, providing perspective for understanding Pears’s novels.