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The Titian Committee: An Art History Mystery    by Iain Pears order for
Titian Committee
by Iain Pears
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 1999 (1993)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Titian Committee is one of a mystery series featuring art history and, at least in this episode, a strong element of farce. There are three investigators, only two of whom are affiliated with the Italian polizia, as members of the Italian National Art Theft Squad. These are the fiery, 'emotionally turbo-charged' Flavia di Stefano and her urbanely intelligent boss General Taddeo Bottando. Politics in the form of a looming budget review sends Flavia to help in a Venetian investigation of the inconvenient murder of a member of an art historical committee funded by the Italian Arts Ministry.

Flavia quickly determines that Dr. Louise Masterson was murdered, and also bumps into a close friend, the mild-mannered, slightly wimp-ish Englishman and art dealer, Jonathan Argyll, who helps with the investigation. Bottando soon gets into the act as well. Naturally more corpses follow, along with an art trail that takes them across Europe to the Ardèche in France. When the pieces of the puzzle have all fallen into place, Flavia organizes a Nero Wolfe style d9nouement with those involved, in which she dispenses a uniquely Italian style of justice.

Though I enjoyed the Venetian backdrop to the investigation and the bonus of art history that came with the murders, I found the plot development disappointingly sluggish. But The Titian Committee is still worth reading for the entertaining antics of its characters, and for its depiction of Venice, which the author paints in realistic hues.

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