Monday, 31 July 2000

Iain Pears: The Bernini Bust (1992)

Edition: Gollancz, 1992
Review number: 556

The third of Pears' Jonathan Argyll novels is by far the most wide ranging in setting, much of the action (including the murder) taking place in Los Angeles rather than Italy, the country which basically contains the other stories. Jonathan travels there because he has sold a Titian to a minor Californian museum for an inflated price. (The museum was set up by billionaire Arthur Moresby because purchases could be written off against tax.)

At a party given by the museum at which Moresby is to announce plans to massively expand the museum, Jonathan meets an acquaintance from the Italian art trade who has a somewhat dishonest reputation. Herbert di Souza has also made a big sale to the museum, and has been asked by their European buyer to bring over a sealed crate containing a sculpture. When, at the party, it is revealed that this is a bust by Bernini of Pope Pius V, de Souza becomes agitated and demands to speak to Moresby about it in private.

It is just after this meeting that Moresby's body is discovered, while di Souza has disappeared. After this rather complicated setup, the plot develops as a soundly constructed, fairly traditional murder mystery, whose art connections mystify LAPD homicide detectives more used to drug gang killings.

Like the rest of this light-hearted series, The Bernini Bust is enjoyable and worth reading if you like crime fiction.

1 comment:

Michael Johnston said...

This was the book that hooked me and made me want to write my own art theft and forgery novel, "Rembrandt Sings". Thanks Iain!