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Giotto's Hand (Jonathan Argyll, #5)
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Giotto's Hand (Jonathan Argyll #5)

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  1,013 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
Someone's planning to raid an ancient monastery in Rome. But why? And when? Enter art expert Jonathan Argyll...
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 1st 2000 by Berkley (first published 1995)
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Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read this over a decade ago, but I noted witty passages--and there are many. Like Leon on Venice, Pears captures Italian policing bureaucracy, its authoritarian sexism combined with a bracing incompetence: the Amanda Knox case provides the best illustration, where poorly gathered, doubtful evidence was used to pursue a criminal prosecutor's (i.e., himself facing a trial) original, unwavering idea.
But additional to Leon, Pears adds the delicious factor of comparative incompetence between Italy a
Jan 22, 2015 rated it liked it
One of my students loaned this to me, so I had to finish before class ends this week. I had read one of the earlier in the series, which didn't impel me to run out and read the rest. This was a fine diversion, but I had some issues with it. The plot was overly convoluted, I kept losing track of who was who among the villagers (George and Gordon? Couldn't one be Ed or Hank?), and I didn't buy the motivation of the villain. It struck me as ironic that Romans were complaining about British trains. ...more
Aug 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries
I don't often re-read a series but this one is worth it.
Jonathan Argyll and his fiance Flavia di Stefano, of the Italian Art Crimes police, investigate a string of art thefts that occurred over 30 years and across Europe. Traveling between Italy and England, this intrepid duo ferret out not only the thief but all the thief's associates. Pears sets forth a convoluted crime and investigation worthy of an excellent, rainy-day mystery. For art history lovers everywhere.
Dec 29, 2016 rated it liked it
A good mystery, stolen art, lives tangled, the continuing story of Jonathan and Flavia. And of course General Bottando. Sometimes I got a little lost with who did what, when...but it all comes together in the end.
Dec 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
A really great book shows us how everything is great and worth to die for
Nancy Gillies
Nov 20, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a generous three-star rating. Giotto's Hand is a quick and enjoyable read with some twists and turns and steady pacing. I liked that it doesn't have a pat ending, but I found the characters kind of flat; I couldn't picture them or hear their voices. I also found the buying/selling involving Forster and Winterton kind of confusing, although I suppose that was likely intentional. While I really liked Pears' An Instance of the Fingerpost, I wouldn't go out of my way to read other books in t ...more
Mar 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: general-mystery, 2017
Another fun mystery "romp" with artistic themes.

This one has some interesting ethical twists for each of the three ongoing characters. Nice!
Aug 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, art, rome
More appropriately tagged Art Squad #5, this tale accounts the trials of Italy's investigative team as they cope with an attempted bureaucratic coup from within, while pursuing a mythical art thief that the Squad's leader, Bottando, had once deduced, but been unable to prove existed. Now circumstances force the Squad to resume the hunt for "Giotto," as Bottando dubbed his shadowy thief, even though it will add fuel to the impending coup -- an example of Bottando losing his grip, wasting funds on ...more
Jill Holmes
Nov 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This may be my favorite of the "Art History Mysteries' by Iain Pears. The plot is complex and involves the works of a number of artists from the supremely well-known to the far less familiar. Our mis-stepping hero, Jonathan Argyll, falls into another murder while in pursuit of artworks to sell as a dealer. He is forced to spend time in the cold summer of his native England removed from his preferred home in Italy. His beloved, the entrancing Flavia di Stefano, is sent to England to follow the br ...more
Aug 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
But he hadn’t a clue; so he forgot all about it, and hummed to himself instead.

Last line from Giotto’s Hand by Iain Pears.

I first heard of Iain Pears after reading a book about a book lover and her love of books, Book Lover by Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack. I remember the protagonist describing another novel by Iain Pears in detail and ever since then, I’ve wanted to read something by him.

Giotto’s Hand was my first chance and proved to be an enjoyable art murder/ mystery. The group dynamic be
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is #5 (of 7) in Iain Pears' Art History Mystery series, but it's the last I read! I saved it a while, knowing that after this one, there aren't any more! Objectively, this probably isn't the best of the series,but it's a solid entry. Bottando, the director of the Art Theft Squad, has an upstart after his job, and out to discredit him and his methods. He grabs onto a dead-case file of old thefts, which Bottando had a theory about - that they might all have been the work of one mastermind, ni ...more
Aug 21, 2011 rated it it was ok
I rather expected more from this having read An Instance of the Fingerpost, The Dream of Scipio, and The Raphael Affair. Put bluntly I found this pedestrian for the most part. I did enjoy some of the more lively interchanges between the character but the mystery itself as well as the interplay amongst the crew in Italy left much to be desired in my opinion. However it is a nice fluffy read for summer and I suspect many will find this just to their tastes.
This one I remembered half way through the book who was Giotto. Hence the three stars because this is a reread and well, once I remembered or I figured out who the culprit is, the structure of the mystery has to be air tight for me to really get into it. In this one we find the General under siege and attack from a bureaucrat who wants to oust him of his job, Flavia on the trail of a 30 years old theft and Jonathan, well, being Jonathan and stumbling into the mess by luck.

I love this series eve
Martin Mulcahey
Mar 20, 2011 rated it liked it
This a return to England, where the majority of the action takes place. While the country manners and atmosphere is not brought to life as well as say a Anne Perry, Pears put his dry brand of humor to work well in the surroundings. I agree that this is not the strongest book of the series, but it still educated me while inserting a good mystery. My first book in the Argyll series was 'Death and restoration', so unfortunately I had an idea about how this one would finish. If you are a fan of the ...more
Razvan Banciu
Dec 06, 2016 rated it liked it
nothing valuable until the last twenty pages or so.
- the plot is thin, characters are far from pleasant
- the action lances, there is more insignificant talk
- there is no need of bottando-argan war in order to rise the value of the book; that's quite boring
- perhaps, mr. pears has something against his own country, as the weather is ugly, trains are dirty, hihgways are too slow, food is bad and so on
- I've guessed the "killer" from the first pages, she's too good to be innocent
but, as I've said,
Jun 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unlike his major books like An Instance of the Fingerpost or A Dream of Scipio, these Jonathan Argyll art theft mysteries are quick reads. They are witty and have a good enough mystery with a few twists to make them very enjoyable.
In this one, General Bottando of the Art Theft Squad is under attack by a bureaucratic functionary who wants his job. Bottando had collected a number of unsolved cases with similar M.O. and suddenly finds a clue which links them to an Englishman, who conveniently turns
Oct 07, 2015 rated it liked it
I do not know a lot about art, or the art world.
this mystery did not really enlighten me.
The book was okay, easy to read, a fast read and interesting. Aside from the actual mystery there was the issue of job security, and office politics. I don't love those stories, because usually reading from afar, I get angry at those who manipulate and change facts to make them look better and no one else seems to notice. (other than the person hurt by the person).
The actual art mystery, well it was okay, b
Mar 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
For me, this was the beginning of the downfall of this previously wonderful series. Don't get me wrong; it's still a very good book, as are the next two, but they aren't as good as the first four. It's very clear to me when Pears started wanting to write "serious" books, as opposed to the generally lighthearted and frothy earlier ones. The mystery is plotted just as well as the first four (and probably better than The Last Judgement), but some of the humor is replaced by moral dilemmas for Jonat ...more
May 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Fast, funny, intelligent and a pleasure to read, like all the books in this series. I'd already read a sequel to this one and I knew "whodunnit" — but that actually made it more enjoyable for me to see how Pears kind of deceived the reader throughout the book. This isn't a super tightly plotted "caper" or suspense thriller; it's really about the characters, who are all interesting and a treat to be with.
Sep 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
I first read this in 2001. I'm too lazy to go to the library, so I have been reading stuff gathering dust on the shelves. This is a great story, with many bits of humour, and I enjoyed it very much. Oddly, I've only read one other book by Pears, and it isn't from the Art History Mystery series. I shall have to make amends.

Words I Can't Remember The Meaning Of:

Apparatchik (pg. 102) -- A blindly devoted official, says the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Mar 24, 2010 rated it it was ok
didn't quite savour this one - found it a little bit confusing with big flashy italian names and references to painters i ain't never me heard of - i was promised a big twist at the tail but knowing a twist was coming it seemed pretty obvious who was gunna stick their hand up as the true crim and true to form she did - also found myself not liking any of the characters particularly - i didn't dislike em, i just didn't care ...
Georgiana 1792
Oct 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Questo è il Pears che voglio leggere!!!
E sono sempre più convinta che l'ultima indagine della serie sia stata costruita a tavolino per chiudere il ciclo di romanzi!
Finalmente ho conosciuto alla sua prima apparizione Mary Verney, e, se ripenso a The Immaculate Deception resto ancora più perplessa!
Jun 29, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2007booksread
Another in the Art History mystery series by Mr. Pears. I like the series and the style, but this one just didn't hold my interest. It may not have been the fault of the novel itself, as the plot was fairly interesting and the characters well done. I think I will take a break from the series for a while.
Mar 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Bottando finds himself in a typical Italian dilemma, vying with the slimy Dr. Corrado and Jonathan finds himself back in Britain. This leads to some lovely barbs comparing and contrasting England and Italy, but the ending bothered me. Why would Jonathan get so worked up about this situation, but not about his accidental manslaughter in book one?
I even enjoyed it, as far as summer reads go, but I would like it more if it was less complicated. Say, two sudden turns of action less, and actually a plausible solution? But overall, a nice read, especially if you like variations on the theme of "evil lurking behind the peaceful facade of the English countryside."
Charlotte Kent
Jul 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
Since I research and write and think about fiction focused on art, mysteries around art are my favorite way to relax. Iain Pears is known for his series and I thoroughly enjoyed my introduction to his work. This is a fun 'English countryside' mystery, though parts in Italy. No gruesome murders describe but plenty of fun suspense to keep me turning the pages. A great weekend away or summer read!
Cynthia Greenwood
Nov 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Although this mystery is the 5th in Pears's art historical detective series, I devoured it before reading the first book in the series. And it got me hooked. Set in Rome, my favorite European city, this intrigue is a superb introduction to Rome's fictional Art Theft Squad. Its members launch a search for 'Giotto', a master criminal and long-time thief of Renaissance artworks.
May 13, 2013 rated it did not like it
I've read two other of his detective series and I disliked this one for the same reasons I'd disliked those. But I picked it up for my trip to Florence and Rome. Bigger disappointment because most of the book was set in England. But the villa we rented was named for Giotto so I guess it isn't all bad.
May 13, 2013 rated it liked it
I liked this simple who-dun-it. Clever twist at the end (although I saw it coming), but it is refreshing to read an English author who does not condescend when describing Italians (think if Tim Parks).
A good book to bring along when you are on a short holiday.
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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
More about Iain Pears...

Other Books in the Series

Jonathan Argyll (7 books)
  • The Raphael Affair (Jonathan Argyll, #1)
  • The Titian Committee (Jonathan Argyll, #2)
  • The Bernini Bust (Jonathan Argyll, #3)
  • The Last Judgement (Jonathan Argyll, #4)
  • Death and Restoration (Jonathan Argyll, #6)
  • The Immaculate Deception (Jonathan Argyll, #7)

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