Iain Pears, An Instance Of The Fingerpost
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Have you read his The Dream of Scipio? It's not as complex as An Instance of the Fingerpost, but I thought it was beautifully written.
The Bernini Bust
Death and Restoration
The Immaculate Deception
The Titian Committee
The Last Judgement
The Raphael Affair
His "Nick and Nora" protagonists are Jonathn Argyll, bumbling English Art Historian, and ultra slick Flavia di Stefano, an Agent of the Italian National Art Squad.
While none of the books is an "historical mystery", you'll get a dose of history and art education with usually a good read.
BTW: Would The Thin Man count as a historical mystery today? While a contemporary work, it is pre WWII...
Even if it doesn't, if you only seen the movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy - which are excellent! - the book is great too...
I loved the book too. It was so interesting to see each narrator from the eyes of the other. Although it was a large book it flew by when I was reading.
I also have the Dream of Scipio on my TBR pile.
I have re-read the book more than once. I've also been accosted by a stranger who saw me with it, and who wanted to tell me how the book had captivated her. I can't remember the last time a book has instantly endeared me to a stranger, but this one did.
My cousin loaned me Fingerpost the first time I read it, and I repaid him with a homemade soundtrack of 17th-century music, including some of the English viol music that Anthony Wood describes with such emotion. Most of us never get a chance to hear it, unfortunately. Fingerpost fans should look up the viol consorts Fretwork and Phantasm, for a start.
But I agree that it probably is not for everyone. When a group of friends and I were discussing this book, someone suggested that perhaps one could read the different accounts like different books, maybe even going so far to read something different between each account.