An Instance of the Fingerpost

An Instance of the Fingerpost

Book - 1998
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We are in England in the 1660s. Charles II has been restored to the throne following years of civil war and Cromwell's short-lived republic. Oxford is the intellectual seat of the country, a place of great scientific, religious, and political ferment. A fellow of New College is found dead in suspicious circumstances. A young woman is accused of his murder. We hear the story of the death from four witnesses: an Italian physician intent on claiming credit for the invention of blood transfusion; the son of an alleged Royalist traitor; a master cryptographer who has worked for both Cromwell and the king; and a renowned Oxford antiquarian. Each tells his own version of what happened. Only one reveals the extraordinary truth.With rights sold for record-breaking sums around the world, An Instance of the Fingerpost is destined to become a major international publishing event. Deserving of comparison to the works of John Fowles and Umberto Eco, Iain Pears's novel is an ingenious tour de force: an utterly compelling historical mystery with a plot that twists and turns and keeps the reader guessing until the very last page.
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 1998.
ISBN: 9781573220828
Branch Call Number: Pea
Characteristics: 691p


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Mar 25, 2017

This historical fiction is very well conceptualized and written. It does take time to enter the author's world and to appreciate the depth and details of the mystery. The writing itself is very good and the time/place of the story fully realized. The conceit of telling the story from multiple perspectives allows the reader to almost treat the story as a mystery and tease out hints and clues from each individual's story. While the resolution at the end will disappoint many secular readers, it provides ample food for thought.

Dec 24, 2016

The premise, setting, and attempt to write the same events from different perspectives is interesting. However, the lack of editing and that each character sounds the same detracts. If you are thinking of reading this book, don't, there are too many good books out there to waste your time on this one.

Nov 07, 2014

Iain Pears digs deep into religion and science in this compelling period mystery set in Oxford, England in 1663. An Instance of the Fingerpost is the kind of lengthy, slow burn of a book that reveals itself only to the most observant and committed of readers, but with an explosive payoff that's well worth the wait. The book is lengthy, and the time period obscure for most contemporary readers, so be ready to jump in with a strong stomach and a clear mind.

The driving force of every mystery is to figure out what really happened. In An Instance of the Fingerpost that discovery is no easy feat. A murder has been committed, and someone, Sarah Blundy, is eventually accused, convicted, and executed. Pears gives us four different narrators, each with their own account of what took place, and it's up to us to weed out the delicate thread of truth from the mishmash of half-truths, contradictions, and misdirection. It's a book told in layers upon layers of deception, with Pears ever so slowly peeling back those layers, until we're finally left with the truth at the end…or are we?

Aug 05, 2010

I usually enjoy books where the same story is told from the viewpoint of several characters. The Embezzler by Louis Auchincloss and English Passengers by Matthew Kneale are two of my all-time favorite books. So I hoped this one, having that same characteristic, would join those, but I was mildly disappointed. It's not bad, but it really did not come off as credible to me. The author tried to write in a style suggesting 17th Century scholars might have written it, but there was too much dialogue and modernism, thus spoiling the effect. He also overdid the religious bigotry, sexism, chauvinism, and scientific ignorance and arrogance of the age. The big surprise at the end was something of a let down for me.


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