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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 text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I have to write more in order to publish this review, but I'll just say this is one of the best books I've ever read.
I particularly liked the way that Pears told the story from four different viewpoints, the last being an instance of the fingerpost.
If you like historical mysteries or historical fiction, or even the history of medicine, I highly recommend this book to you.
Mostly fun, at times a bit implausible. A "study" of the vagaries of memory and perspective wrapped in a mystery. Read morePublished 3 days ago by Gordon Bugbee
* Note: Lots of spoilers in this review, so tread with caution.
Iain Pears digs deep into religion and science in this compelling period mystery set in Oxford, England... Read more
A Master at work on every page. What a refreshing book this was to read. I just finished it and though it is long it is a brilliant work of literature i want more. Read morePublished 1 month ago by William Thon
This is one of my most favorite books ever! The story is told and retold from the viewpoint of 3 different characters. The conclusion is astounding. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Marilyn Matheny
Really good -so well written; language is beautiful for the most part -but a little too wordy and repetitive in one of the "chapters"Published 2 months ago by Betty K.
disappointed about about quality of book! Low quality paper,binding, small font and book sizePublished 3 months ago by David McLean
A one of a kind work. The same tale told four times from the point of view of four of the main characters in the tale.Published 3 months ago by Calvin W. Kline, jr.
This book, which is considered Pears' masterpiece, was very disappointing, in my view. Conceptually, the book is clever, telling essentially the same story from four different... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Howardeagle