This is also a first in a series: the Jonathan Argyll novels and they have a secondary title: the Art Mysteries. This first one centers on a newly found Raphael’s painting.

The main character of the books is Generale Taddeo Bottando who is the chief of Rome’s National Art Theft Squad. The point of view characters include her main aide Flavia di Stefano and the English art historian and post-grad student Jonathan Argyll.

Argyll has managed to trace down Raphael’s lost painting. People were trying to smuggle it out of Italy in the 17th century by painting another picture on it but due to a mix-up the original Raphael was never found. Argyll is caught when he tries to break into a church where the painting is supposed to be. Bottando is, understandably, skeptical but Argyll’s research manages to convince him. However, the painting was recently sold to famous art dealer Sir Edward Byrnes. Byrnes manages to recover the Raphael and it is then sold from a huge sum to the Italian government. Agryll and Bottando smell a rat but don’t know why or what to do about it. Soon, during a big party with a lot of celebrities and influential people, the painting is burned and man is found dead.

The first half of the book is just a warm-up for a more ordinary mystery story. The first half is also very heavily plot-driven and is written mostly in a telling way because the main characters are side-liners for the international show that is the revealing of the new Raphael.

There are a lot of intriguing facts about international art thefts and swindlings through out the centuries and it doesn’t feel like it’s forced. However, the characters remain a little flat and the change between POV characters is sometimes abrupt.

But it’s still an interesting little book and I’ll likely try out next in the series.