Iain Pears' The Raphael Affair. While on his search in a small Roman church, Jonathan is arrested for vagrancy. Jonathan believes the missing Raphael is hidden under the painting by Mantini, a lesser know painter above the altar at Santa Barbara church.
When General Bottando of the Italian National Art Theft Squad reads the police report detailing Jonathan's seemingly wild claim about a missing Raphael, he doesn't think much of it. His assistant Flavia di Stefano becomes interested and they visit the church only to discover that the Mantini has been sold to a well-known art dealer named Edward Byrnes. Jonathan predicts the Raphael will be "discovered" under the Mantini and there will be a huge bidding war for the painting.
Sure enough over the next months the rumors turn out to be true and
When a fire destroys the painting in the Museum, Jonathan and Flavia know they are on the right track, a track that takes them into some dangerous territory.
The subject of art fraud has always held a fascination for me and The Raphael Affair feeds that obsession. I look forward to the others in the series.