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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


The Immaculate Deception

Iain Pears

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To purchase The Immaculate Deception

Title: The Immaculate Deception
Author: Iain Pears
Genre: Novel
Written: 2000
Length: 221 pages
Availability: The Immaculate Deception - US
The Immaculate Deception - UK
The Immaculate Deception - Canada
Die makellose Täuschung - Deutschland
  • The seventh in the Art History Mystery-series featuring Jonathan Argyll and Flavia di Stefano

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Our Assessment:

B : entertaining and fairly clever mystery

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The New Yorker . 25/12/2000 .
TLS C 17/11/2000 Natasha Cooper

  From the Reviews:
  • "In spite of the danger and the dramatic background to the narrative, the pace is stately and the characters move as though behind a theatrical gauze. Nothing seems real, and the declamations from the suspects often sound stagey in the extreme. (...) Old-fashioned in its construction, as well as its lack of emotional realism, The Immaculate Deception is the kind of mildly entertaining crossword-puzzle of a detective story that might amuse a retired academic on holiday in Tuscany." - Natasha Cooper, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Immaculate Deception features art historian Jonathan Argyll and his wife, acting head of the police's art theft department in Rome, Flavia di Stefano (both familiar to readers of Pears' previous books in this Argyll-series).
       The book begins with Flavia di Stefano having been summoned by none less than the prime minister, Antonio Sabauda. A painting has been stolen -- Claude Lorrain's Landscape with Cephalus and Procris, on loan for an exhibit, with the government guaranteeing its safety. The circumstances require absolutely secrecy: word mustn't get out that the painting has been stolen -- or, when it is retrieved, that a ransom has been paid (since the government has a strict policy against paying ransoms).
       Flavia isn't too thrilled about getting involved in something like this but doesn't have much of a choice. At least her former boss, Taddeo Bottando -- moved on to bigger if not much better things and soon on the verge of retirement --, offers advice and a bit of help. And it's Bottando that's at the root of the second main thread of the story, as Argyll looks into the provenance and history of a painting of his, an Immaculate Conception.
       The two story-threads move separately for the most part, but eventually prove to be intertwined, of course. Flavia and Argyll's pursuits prove murkier and more complex than perhaps initially imagined: so, for example, when it becomes clear who stole the painting -- only for it then to turn out that he died (under, of course, suspicious circumstances) before the ransom demand was made ..... Flavia can't leave be and has to get to the bottom of things -- despite warnings from all sides that this is inadvisable. (As it turns out -- and despite many hurdles -- , she manages to twist things to best advantage by the end -- when everything does get a bit all too neatly tied up.)
       Needless to say, the prime minister (a dubious Berlusconi-type) is more involved in all this business than one might have anticipated. Old history is dredged up, making for quite a convoluted story, but Pears moves it along quickly (if also fairly simply). He has an easy, appealing style, and the characters (especially the leading husband-and-wife team) are an entertaining group -- if, occasionally, too simply drawn as black or white. With good doses of politics and art and some decent action and an appealing enough resolution, The Immaculate Deception makes for an undemanding, entertaining read.
       The plot is a bit too twisted, and parts are too convenient (including Flavia's not realising what exactly her indisposition (first mentioned on the book's second page) can be attributed to -- forcing even Pears to acknowledge (though only on page 143): "Her condition was so obvious that she felt foolish for not thinking of it herself" -- no kidding !). Pears is perhaps a bit too ambitious -- what with prime ministers and classic art and murder and millions -- and resolves everything a bit too easily, but it's all good fun, mystery-fluff with a bit of intellectual (or at least artistic) pretensions. A fine light read.

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The Immaculate Deception: Reviews: Claude Lorrain's Landscape with Cephalus and Procris reunited by Diana: Other books by Iain Pears under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Iain Pears was born in 1955. He attended Oxford and has written numerous books.

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