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An Instance of the Fingerpost

Pears, Iain

(Book - 1998)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
An Instance of the Fingerpost
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A national bestseller and one of thenbsp;New York Public Library's Books to Remember, An Instance of the Fingerpost is a thrilling historical mystery from Iain Pears. "It is 1663, and England is wracked with intrigue and civil strife. When an Oxford don is murdered, it seems at first that the incident can have nothing to do with great matters of church and state....Yet, little is as it seems in this gripping novel, which dramatizes the ways in which witnesses can see the same events yet remember them falsely. Each of four narrators#151;a Venetian medical student, a young man intent on proving his late father innocent of treason, a cryptographer, and an archivist#151;fingers a different culprit...an erudite and entertaining tour de force." #151; People Iain Pears's The Dream of Scipio and The Portrait are also available from Riverhead Books.
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, c1998
ISBN: 1573227951
1573220825
Branch Call Number: FICTION PEARS
Characteristics: 691 p. ;,24 cm

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From Library Staff

If you’re drawn to historical mystery aspect of Catton’s Luminaries, you’ll enjoy Pears’ prizewinning story of a murder in Oxford during the Restoration, which features no less than five narrators - all highly colorful, and all but one highly unreliable. Based on a real incident and featuring a n... Read More »

A murder takes place in 1660s Oxford during a period of scientific and political upheaval. Pears gives us four different versions of the truth.


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Nov 07, 2014
  • gendeg rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

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
  • Russ_A rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

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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