L'affaire Raphael
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L'affaire Raphael (Jonathan Argyll #1)

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  1,754 ratings  ·  135 reviews
When a long-lost Raphael resurfaces, it triggers a chain of events from vandalism...to murder! As English art scholar Jonathan Argyll investigates, he ends up on a run for the truth...and his very own life.
299 pages
Published 2000 by Belfond (first published January 1st 1990)
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Sue
This is a fun mystery involving the art market in Europe, specifically England and Italy with some offshoots to France and Switzerland. There is fraud, whispers of fake art, death--unexplained, art museums, fraud squads. What more could one want in a fairly quick but full-of-information art mystery. I think I'll try to get to more in the series.
Alan
Pears is a plums. He writes with enviable wit and aplomb, too. We've read maybe thirty mysteries aloud, including some Sayers and Grimes, Elizabeth George and Donna Leon. This was one of our favorites. Like Donna Leon, Pears captures the flavor of Italian bureaucracy, its diffusion of authoritarian sexism combined with a lacing of incompetence; but Pears adds the delicious factor of comparative incompetence between Italy and the UK. Bottando is a fine invention, a bit like Leon's Brunetti in tha...more
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Not quite in the same class as Arturo Perez-Reverte's antiquarian mysteries. It is the first of a series however, and Pears would grow as a writer later on. In the meantime we have a twisting tale of art world intrigue that begins to deal with larger topics of the nature of beauty, authenticity and what constitutes a masterpiece, but falls short of really bringing them to life. Instead, we have a neat little mystery, a dose of action and a love interest to boot. In this case the love interest ca...more
aPriL purrs 'n hisses
I'm mystified by how there could be a lot learned about art from this first book in this series, but there is a flavor of what kind of traveling and people and art institutions are involved in the selling of art and in the scrum of public display by museums. Everything is introduced a bit bubbly and brief. The characters are a little silly. There is a murder and a short life-and-death tussle which feels peculiar given the light touch throughout, but it is serious for only a page or two.

English...more
pinknantucket
I received a lot of criticism for my criticism of another of Iain Pear’s books, “Death and Restoration”. Well, this one was better! A lot better – I think because we didn’t have to endure so much of Jonathan Argyll’s “inner monologue” about his ethical dilemmas – he was just a slightly kooky art historian. (And we all know how kooky art historians are). I also enjoyed the plot of this book much more, as it relied more on legitimate historical detective work and less on the philosophical musings...more
Hayes
The first in Pears' "Art History" series. Short, sweet, highly improbable at the ending: I mean, really... who is going to believe the final scene in the museum? But it doesn't matter, duzzit? It's fun, and well written, and it takes place in Rome (mostly), back in the days when Rome was still a decent place to live. Very nostalgic.

Just what I needed after reading the monster (but gorgeous), The Count of Monte Cristo.
Helen
what fun...the first in a series series about(this from Amazon) "a somewhat hapless but brilliant British art expert and his Italian significant other who is with the (fictitious) art squad of the Italian authorities. Set mostly in Rome, the series is a great way to learn about current issues in the illicit acquisition and movement of art, as well as about a wide range of art and art periods. Book critics loved this series for its wit, style, erudition, elegance, sophistication, quirky character...more
Vionna
A mediocre mystery set in the art world. The main male Italian characters were pompous,egotistical and tiresome. Flavia fairs better, at least she is full of live and uses her intelligence to solve the mystery of the forged painting. I coud not believe that Jonathan Argyll was so naive and downright stupid at times.
Jennifer
Thanks, Mary G for this recommendation. I am now reading the second book in this series and am enjoying the mystery heartily. Pears is a rare combination--an excellent and intelligent writer who can weave a good mystery and develop his characters! Sophisticated and clean! Hoorah!

Vivienne
I'd had this book for ages and only now picked it up to read.

Found it a quite light-hearted mystery with an art history theme. Jonathan Argyll comes across as somewhat bumbling and I rather preferred Flavia. Oh well. It was a quick read and I loved the art history aspect.
gabrielle
if you love art history & you love mysteries and amazing characters- you will LOVE these Iain Pears' books!! this is the1st one- it's great fun!
Whitaker
A really great book shows us how everything is great and worth to die for
Matt
Odd in the beginning, in that the mystery is introduced and solved before chapter two. Maybe the rest of the book will detail another deeper mystery. Or maybe Ian Pears was contractually obligated to type a certain number of words and the rest is just filler.

Parenthetically, The Rest is Just Filler, would be a great title for an autobiography written by a person who is still living, but does not expect to do anything noteworthy between publication and death.

Okay, now the book is finished. It wa...more
Althea Ann
This was the first installment of what was to become Iain Pears' "Art History Mystery" series, of which, including this one, I've now read, um, 5 out of 7, I think. I really hope he does more in the series - there hasn't been a new one in 6 years, and it seems like Pears has been concentrating more on his 'serious' writing - which, if 'The Dream of Scipio' is to judge by, I don't enjoy as much. But - I've still got two more to go, before withdrawal really sets in!
I didn't really feel like my enj...more
Jill Holmes
Author Iain Pears created some marvelous characters, a clever mystery (with a superbly twisted ending), and a gorgeous travel poster in words for the City of Rome in this novel, the first of his "Art History Mysteries". Jonathan Argyll, an English doctoral student in art history, is something of a bumbler who manages to fall in the right direction in the convoluted trail of a lost masterwork by Raphael. His reluctant helpers are members of Italy's National Art Theft Squad--its chief, the portly...more
Monica
This is the first book in Iain Pears art history mysteries: “Set in Rome, it features the perpetually beset General Bottando of the Italian National Art Theft Squad; his glamorous assistant Flavia di Stefano; and Jonathan Argyll, a British art historian. When Jonathan is arrested for breaking into an obscure church in Rome, he claims it contains a long-lost Raphael hidden under a painting by Mantini. Further investigation reveals that the painting has disappeared. Then it miraculously reappears...more
Deb
I read my first Art Squad novel some years ago, and only just got around to picking up a few more of Iain Pears' series. The Raphael Affair is the first in the series, and introduces the wonderful General Bottando, head of Italy's Art Squad, dedicated to solving crimes related to art theft, forgery and fraud. We also meet his beautiful young investigator/protege, Flavia, and the young English art history scholar, Jonathan Argyll, whose research leads in this first outing to the discovery of an u...more
Janellyn51
I kind of started in the middle with these Iain Pears art mysteries, so time to get back and start at the beginning. I enjoyed this. They are easy reads, and after having been introduced to Jonathan and Flavia well on in the series, it was interesting to see how they originally met as well as the other characters. I didn't guess the culprit till the end. This book is about a Raphael purportedly spirited out of Italy, and sold at auction back to the Italians at a hefty sum....Jonathan Argyle is s...more
Ken
I certainly enjoyed The Raphael Affair, and the series gets better. (I gave Death and Restoration 5 stars.)

Argyll, the chief protagonist at the beginning of the series, gains depth in later books--his ineffectuality in some areas, which is at times somewhat annoying, is better balanced later on by more focus on the importance of his areas of ability, and he becomes a more satisfying fictional "detective". (He's a perfectly plausible human being from the first, but in the earlier books I tended...more
Connie
I read this in the hardcover edition. It is #1 in A Jonathan Argyll mystery.

This is an interesting book about famous painters and how sometimes a famous painters painting can be painted over by some obscure artist and the painting that is famous is lost for long periods of time. This book takes place between Italy and England as clues are in both places.

I enjoyed this book and found it to move along quite quickly. It is a very good whodunit with enough characters to make you wonder who it coul...more
Amy Jane
I found this very hard to read. I found I'd flicked pages without taking anything in and had to re-read a lot. Contrary to how I thought I'd feel about a novel set in Rome, an art historian as the protagonist and all the allure of a mysterious Raphael, I really found this a chore. Unlike 'An Instance of the Fingerpost' the writing style was amateur and cliched. I was thinking of read in the whole series but I'm not going to bother.
Italo Italophiles
This is one of my favorite series. It is usually referred to as the "Art History Mystery Series". The point of view alters throughout the books' chapters, between the three recurring characters, to entertaining effect. Mr. Pears uses a light touch, plenty of humor, and he appears to savor his unorthodox protagonist.

The main protagonist, Jonathan Argyll, is gangly, awkward, obtuse and often lazy. He has the uncanny ability to be in the wrong place at the right time, however, and he is very good...more
Nancy
Hmmm. I am disappointed to see that this book here is given the informational "(Jonathan Argyll, Book #1)", as Argyll was not my favorite character in the book. My version is listed as "Art History Mystery #1", so I was hopeful that the other books would deal with the art theft squad in Italy because I liked all of them.

ANYWAY. My slight dampening of enthusiasm for the series aside, I'll just say that this was a good time. It's a sort of academic caper, where Argyll thinks he's figured out ther...more
Nancy
This is a perfectly delightful detective romp through the museum and art world. I always enjoy reading about the dark under-belly of the museum business and this book offered that along with a little bit of academic puzzle-solving as a young art historian searched for a missing master work.

Although this book did nothing to burnish the reputation of museum professionals, it did highlight the interesting question of how we look at forgeries. Are they necessarily inferior to the master work?

Iain P...more
Alice
I really enjoyed this book. Being in the art world....but not art forgery... I find it interesting. Never gave art forgery much thought. It is a good read.
Omly
This book takes place in the world of art trading and art history academics. A graduate student just misses a painting by Rapheal he thinks may have been part of a art smuggling scheme centuries ago. The art dealer who snatched it up though says that he is merely an agent for the buyer, who he can not or will not reveal. If the painting is genuine as it seems then it would be the find of a century. The museum that buys it finds that it comes with it's share of violence though, as the press dubs...more
Andrea Hickman Walker
This is a very interesting book. It ends up as a murder mystery, though it's really about art theft and forgery and so on. I really enjoyed it. I liked most of the main characters, particularly the two that I gather continue the series. It's also a nice break from the usual murder mysteries in that it's neither set in the US nor the UK (it's set in Italy) and one gets a completely different kind of government influence on the investigators. Also, being set on continental Europe there's occasiona...more
Susan
This book was recommended by an English professor. It revolves around a British art history graduate student, Jonathan Argyll, who discovers that a second rate painting may have a valuable masterpiece painted under it. He later discovers that the masterpiece may also be a fake. He befriends a member of an Italian art squad and they try to discover the truth. The book contains both murder and romance, but both are so greatly low key that they hardly merit noticing. Some better action does occur t...more
Karmen
Jonathan Argyll believes he has found a hidden Raphael painting in a small parish church in Rome. He thinks he has found the most sublime ending to his dissertation. Commerce preempts him, however, as the picture is sold to a London art dealer.

The painting is then restored and sold to tr Italian government.

Months pass and the painting is destroyed by a "faulty" circuit breaker. And things get very interesting.

Jonathan is reunited with Flavia and her boss in Italy's national art squad, Rome. Murd...more
Stephen Swanson
An history mystery. A bit of fluff. I learned some about oil painting restoration. Grace made me read it.
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Iain Pears is an English art historian, novelist and journalist. He was educated at Warwick School, Warwick, Wadham College and Wolfson College, Oxford. Before writing, he worked as a reporter for the BBC, Channel 4 (UK) and ZDF (Germany) and correspondent for Reuters from 1982 to 1990 in Italy, France, UK and US. In 1987 he became a Getty Fellow in the Arts and Humanities at Yale University. His...more
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