Review: Ruth Brandon introduces art curator and historian Dr. Reggie Lee in Caravaggio's Angel, a tale of mystery and intrigue set in the world of international art.
Reggie is a relatively new member of the staff of the National Gallery in London. She is given the assignment to set up a small exhibition enveloping three paintings by the 1600's Italian master Caravaggio collectively titled "St. Cecelia and the Angel." It would really be a feather in her cap if she were able to pull it off. One of the paintings is on display the Getty Museum in California. Another is in the Louvre in Paris. The third is in the possession of a private party, an elderly lady in France, Mme. Juliette Rigaut. Reggie goes to visit Mme. Rigaut's son, Jean-Jacques, an Interior Minister but having grand aspirations of becoming President of France one day, initially agrees but abruptly changes his mind saying he is part owner of the painting and refusing to allow it to be loaned. Not only that, he forces the Louvre to reverse its decision to agree to loan their Caravaggio. But now the situation is even more complicated: her quest to bring together the three paintings reveals a fourth "Angel". Could this truly be the find of a lifetime or more likely a forgery? Or is it genuine and one of the existing three paintings is in reality a fake? Soon people involved with her assignment begin to die, accidents possibly, murder almost certainly. Will she be able to determine the truth before she becomes a casualty?
Caravaggio's Angel is a wonderful introduction for this amateur sleuth. The story draws the reader into the complex, secretive world of art treasures and Reggie is quite endearing. The plot is sufficiently intricate to capture the imagination without being overly convoluted. A minor annoyance, typical of many international mysteries, is the inclusion of words or phrases in the local language. Here, for example, whole sentences are in French and it is difficult, if not impossible, from the context to determine what exactly is being said. There are far better, and more effective, ways of introducing an international flavor to a book. It's pretentious, it unnecessarily interrupts the flow of the narrative, leaves the reader ignorant of something potentially important, and makes the book slightly less enjoyable than it otherwise might have been.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Caravaggio's Angel.
Acknowledgment: Soho Press provided a copy of Caravaggio's Angel for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Caravaggio's Angel: London, Paris
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Caravaggio's Angel by Ruth Brandon — A Reggie Lee Mystery
Publisher: Soho Constable
Publication Date: October 2008
List Price: $25.00