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The year is 1663, and the setting is Oxford, England, during the height of Restoration political intrigue. When Dr. Robert Grove is found dead in his Oxford room, hands clenched and face frozen in a rictus of pain, all the signs point to poison. Rashomon-like, the narrative circles around Grove's murder as four different characters give their version of events: Marco da Cola, a visiting Italian physician--or so he would like the reader to believe; Jack Prestcott, the son of a traitor who fled the country to avoid execution; Dr. John Wallis, a mathematician and cryptographer with a predilection for conspiracy theories; and Anthony Wood, a mild-mannered Oxford antiquarian whose tale proves to be the book's "instance of the fingerpost." (The quote comes from the philosopher Bacon, who, while asserting that all evidence is ultimately fallible, allows for "one instance of a fingerpost that points in one direction only, and allows of no other possibility.")
Like The Name of the Rose, this is one whodunit in which the principal mystery is the nature of truth itself. Along the way, Pears displays a keen eye for period details as diverse as the early days of medicine, the convoluted politics of the English Civil War, and the newfangled fashion for wigs. Yet Pears never loses sight of his characters, who manage to be both utterly authentic denizens of the 17th century and utterly authentic human beings. As a mystery, An Instance of the Fingerpost is entertainment of the most intelligent sort; as a novel of ideas, it proves equally satisfying.
This is a long book, with each of four narrators having around 200 pages to tell their side of the story about the death of an Oxford dean. Read morePublished 26 days ago by Jonathan Wood
Intriguing intellectual thriller/mystery set in 17th century Oxford. Practically all the many characters are historical figures and the author's documentation is detailed in the... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Leitha
The writing is brilliant, the story and characters intriguing,but the plot moves at the infuriating pace of a Dickens novel.Published 4 months ago by bill coonan
complicated and confusing. There are a ton of characters, all but 2 are male so it is easy to get them confused.Published 5 months ago by M. M. Buchecker
In the first part the stage is set and mysteries promised. In the last part all is revealed in an ingenious and unexpected manner. As for the middle part . . . Read morePublished 5 months ago by bktaylor
To date, the best book I have ever read. If you were willing, patients will reward you as you read through this thoughtfully written, deeply researched, and craftily written... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Bryne McDowell