Title: Caravaggio’s Angel
Author: Ruth Brandon
Release Date: October 1, 2008
Publisher: Soho Constable
Rating: 4 out of 5
From the dust jacket:
Dr. Reggie Lee, a new arrival at the National Gallery, is organizing a small exhibition around three Caravaggio paintings depicting “St. Cecilia and the Angel.” One is at the Getty, one at the Louvre, and she assumes it won’t be too hard to track down the third. But inexplicable obstacles keep getting in her way – and then, unexpectedly, a fourth Caravaggio turns up. One of them must be a fake. But which?
When people start to die, it’s horrible clear that someone doesn’t want Reggie’s show to go ahead. Why, she can’t imagine. But her career is at stake, and she’s damned if she’ll let herself be intimidated by these unseen forces. So Reggie sets out to discover the truth, on a trail that leads her from Surrealist suicides to Italian art dealers, from seventeenth-century painting techniques to modern French politics. By the end it seems as through no one in the world of international art can be truly deemed incorruptible – perhaps not even Reggie herself.
When I first heard about Caravaggio’s Angel, I knew I was in for a treat. I love mysteries about art history and provenance, and I’ve been fascinated with Caravaggio ever since I read the non-fiction book The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece.
I really liked the character of Reggie in Caravaggio’s Angel. She was strong-willed and determined to get answers. She was also naturally curious, which makes her a perfect “amateur sleuth.” Most of the rest of the characters are somewhat flat, but Reggie is vibrant and full of life. Her knowledge of art was considerable, yet she didn’t know everything. Sometimes it’s frustrating when a character has so much knowledge as to seem inhuman. Reggie is obviously an expert in the art world, but she isn’t afraid to ask for help when necessary. I enjoyed getting to know her.
The mystery was interesting enough, but more in the way it was crafted than in the answer to the puzzle. I actually figured out the solution to the mystery about halfway through the novel, so that question wasn’t really the driving force. Instead, I enjoyed reading through the twists and turns, peeling away the layers that make up Caravaggio’s Angel.
The cover of Caravaggio’s Angel says “Introducing Reggie Lee, Art Curator and Amateur Detective.” I assumed that meant the author intended this book as the beginning of a series. The information on the back flap of the book confirmed that Ruth Brandon is working on a sequel to this book. That information excites me to no end – now that Reggie is a developed character, I can’t wait to read about her adventures solving mysteries in the art world! I think Brandon found a hole within the literary world and has filled it nicely.
I really enjoyed Caravaggio’s Angel. If you like art history, you will appreciate this novel as well. I can’t wait for the next in the series!