The Immaculate Deception

Iain Pears

HarperCollins 2000
A book review by Danny Yee © 2003
Flavia di Stefano is acting head of the Italian Art Theft Squad. When a painting on loan for a high-profile exhibition is stolen, threatening a national furor, the prime minister himself summons her — only to forbid either an illegal ransom payment or any kind of public action. She fears she's being set up as a scapegoat, and her mentor Bottando, looking forward to retirement, isn't eager to get involved. Meanwhile her husband Jonathan Argyll, a dilettante art historian, is trying to establish a provenance for a small painting of Bottando's...

There's some violence towards the end, but the mood of The Immaculate Deception is light-hearted — it's not an outright comedy, but Pears' satire is gentle but effective and he doesn't take himself too seriously. The plot has more than enough twists and turns to keep us curious, without becoming too implausible or complex, and the characters are convincingly human, never reduced to farce or formula. The sordid corruption of Italian politics and the feuds and contrivances of the art world make for a dramatic backdrop.

The Immaculate Deception is the seventh novel featuring Flavia di Stefano and Jonathan Argyll — and perhaps, given its conclusion, the last. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for the earlier volumes.

July 2003

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Related reviews:
- Iain Pears - An Instance of the Fingerpost
- books about Italy + Italian history
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%T The Immaculate Deception
%A Pears, Iain
%I HarperCollins
%D 2000
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0006511112
%P 282pp