Powerscourt's interest in the 1899 slaying of leading art critic Christopher Montague--garroted in his London flat with a piano wire--is simple enough: the dead man was one of his wife Lucy's myriad relatives. But this is no simple homicide. For one thing, all of Montague's papers have disappeared. These include an article he was writing about forged or faked Renaissance paintings--some of which are hanging at the prestigious de Courcy and Piper Gallery. It's a neat little business that partners William Alaric Piper and Edmund de Courcy have been running: With the help of a talented--and captive--young artist named Orlando Blane, they duplicate existing Old Masters, or create new ones in identical style, for sale to foreigners. So was Montague killed to prevent his revealing this epidemic fraudulence? Or was the critic's demise the tragic outcome of his affair with a married woman, whose husband is now missing? Following the garroting of Montague's closest friend, and with a likely innocent man awaiting trial for these murders, Dickinson's aristocratic sleuth begins a chase after answers that will lead him from the Mediterranean island of Corsica to London's hallowed National Gallery and a disheveled dynastic mansion on the Norfolk seacoast.
Dickinson, a former BBC-TV editor, stuffs Death of an Old Master with knowledge about the Victorian art world, yet avoids didactic stuffiness. His focus here is instead on wit, rompish adventure, and a cast memorable for its quirky diversity. Although readers may be hard-pressed to identify the killer in advance, the courtroom resolution to Dickinson's mystery boasts something that's lacking from most of the artistic efforts in this tale: genuineness. --J. Kingston Pierce -- From Amazon.com Amazon.com Review