Martin, a philosophy professor (I think) and his wife spend some time in the cottage they've just bought in the countryside, and are invited to dinner at a the house of the guy who owns the land adjoining their property. While there, they are shown some paintings, and Martin believes one of them to be a lost masterpiece. He becomes increasingly obsessed with the idea of obtaining and selling the painting.
This was more like Spies than Skios - although not quite so serious as Spies. What it mainly reminded me of was Iris Murdoch's The Black Prince, as Martin becomes more and more consumed with the desire to obtain the picture. As well as rationalising his own behaviour, he interprets other people's behaviour as justifying his plans to deceive his neighbour. Also like the Murdoch book, Martin's moods swing wildly from one extreme to another: his assumptions about what his wife is thinking are based on trying to work out what her behaviour means, and he reads all sorts of things into that behaviour depending on his own mood - he assumes her moods must refect his own.
I quite liked the book, although really there was too much art history in it for me. The crucial painting was meant to be a lost work by Pieter Bruegel, and I think Frayn did a lot of research into this because there's a ton of historical and biographical background for Bruegel: I guess this is laudable but as someone who's not particularly interested in art history, and had never heard of Bruegel, it didn't do much for me.
Well written, but I didn't enjoy it that much.
Completed : 06-Jan-2014