The introduction to Peter Robb's (1998) biography of Carravagio, "M," is possibly the most enthralling thing I have ever read. It is as absorbing as the opening scenes of a film.

The fragments that tell us what we know about the life and death of the painter I call M float on the surface of a treacherous reality -- they're lies to the police, reticence in court, extorted confessions, forced denunciations, revengeful memoirs, self-justifying hindsight, unquestioned hearsay, diplomatic urbanities, theocratic diktat, reported gossip, threat and propaganda, angry outbursts -- hardly a word untainted by fear, ignorance, malice, or self interest. You have to apply a forensic and skeptical mind to the enigmas of M's life and death. You have to know how to read the evidence. You have to know the evidence is there -- you need a feel for the unsaid, for the missing file, the cancelled entry, the tacit conclusion, the gap, the silence, the business done with a nod and a wink. The missing data in M's life and death make up a narrative of their own, running invisible but present through the known facts.

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