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    Review of DEATH OF AN OLD MASTER by David Dickinson


    Carroll & Graf, Publishers, February 2004

    Victoria still reigns, the Boors are making ugly war on the British Empire in southern Africa, and American millionaires are flocking to Europe to pick up culture--including the old masters. One enterprising art dealer specializes in serving the needs of the Americans--whether this means locating great art, or creating it on demand. It's all very civilized in a way, and even similar to the way that many British manors were stuffed with ersatz 'old masters' from centuries of trips to the continent. But the murder of an art critic throws the entire business into turmoil.

    Investigator Lord Francis Powerscourt interveins when his wife reminds him that the victim is something of a cousin (Powerscourt believes that half of English society is a cousin of some sort to his wife). The case looks clearcut--the dead man had been having an affair with a married woman whose husband had recently learned of the affair and was not happy about it. But Powerscourt doesn't trust any case that looks too obvious and he finds other motives--motives involving money and great art.

    Author David Dickinson (see more reviews of novels by Dickinson) writes convincingly of English 'society' near the end of the 19th century. British nobles are finding their ancestral homes to be expensive monstrosities that they still must maintain, manners remain critical, and a woman can be ruined by scandal--but both men and women still seek out adventure in their lives. Powerscourt is a well developed and sympathetic character--often lost in the case but never too busy to make time for his wife (and occasional co-investigator) and children. Dickinson doesn't look beneath the upper crust of English society, but even that upper crust is pretty rotten.

    Dickinson throws out a number of red herings, sends Powerscourt through England and even to Corsica, and gives the reader enough interest in art and art forgery to make for a fascinating read.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 7/06/04

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