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Still one of the best books I ve ever read, this has something for everyone It s a mystery, it s history, it s science, it s drama, it s amazing It s really long too, but that just makes it better by the time you finish it you ll be sorry it wasn t longer. 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 pageWe are in England in the s 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 truthWith 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 There is a murder and there is a dispossessed heir Frankly, I couldn t give a stuff if some shouldabeen rich young sprog got hornswoggled in the 17th century, I mean, the goodly realm of Great Britain had just been through 20 years of civil war and there was an awful lot of horns swoggled, of that you can be sure I d sayhorns were swoggled than not swoggled Vast estates yanked from under the noses of their rightful heirs and all of that Who cares Alas, the whole plot of this very long There is a murder and there is a dispossessed heir Frankly, I couldn t give a stuff if some shouldabeen rich young sprog got hornswoggled in the 17th century, I mean, the goodly realm of Great Britain had just been through 20 years of civil war and there was an awful lot of horns swoggled, of that you can be sure I d sayhorns were swoggled than not swoggled Vast estates yanked from under the noses of their rightful heirs and all of that Who cares Alas, the whole plot of this very long novel almost as long as the 17th century itself is can this unpleasant young man get his inheritance back and who murdered this unpleasant middle aged guy in Oxford who was mixed up in it somewhere and this young woman is accused of the crime but she prolly didn t do it and she s a witch no she s not yes she is she looked at me funny once.So this book was really trying my patience with its procession of rancid Oxford dons and sniffy cryptographers and the standard government issue unreliable narrators all calling each other bad names The first of the four long narratives we have here is actually pretty good stuff, a perky Italian geezer getting involved with blood transfusions and the said murder in 1662 when King Charles has just been restored to the throne and the air was thick with a great many cloaks and accompanying daggers The second of the four long narratives is just about bearable but the boredom begins to set in like a fine drenching cold rain How were we supposed to care about this young poltroon s fortunes when he s already told us that he reached a fat and sassy late middle age because God grinned down upon him from the highest heaven and gave him the Celestial Wink It kinda robs the whole thing of any suspense.Then long narrative three finally kills off all remaining will to finish because we now have a second unpleasant old fart to listen to for hundreds of pages And I checked and saw that the fourth long narrative is a third farty old fart, who no doubt will probably contradict the other three and reveal their narratives to be shocketty shock a tissue of deliberate fabrication and self deception.Oh also, people did not write stuff like this in the 17th century, not even slightly This is a wildly unrealistic smoothed down scrubbed and washed version of something no 17th century person would ever have written So to sum up, no What sticks in my mind about this book is being consumed with fury for 1 4th of it and then having the following conclusion be the greatest revenge A really excellent novel with some very unreliable narrators and detailed characterization I was amazed at how everything fit together by the end. A novel novel please pardon the attempted humor , where unreliable narrators outnumber purported reliability by a long shot Once again my happiness at not living in the 17th century is validated as I read of the physical squalor, the political and religious unrest and distrust in England after the restoration of Charles II, the relative worthlessness of the average person s life Amidst that there is the glimmer of new knowledge and education at Oxford the seat of Instance Along with the A novel novel please pardon the attempted humor , where unreliable narrators outnumber purported reliability by a long shot Once again my happiness at not living in the 17th century is validated as I read of the physical squalor, the political and religious unrest and distrust in England after the restoration of Charles II, the relative worthlessness of the average person s life Amidst that there is the glimmer of new knowledge and education at Oxford the seat of Instance Along with the new areas of philosophy, which includes the budding knowledge of medicine, alchemy and belief in witchcraft still exist It s a veritable stew of contrary beliefs and mistrust Add to that a death that may or may not have been suspicious, apparent witnesses who may or may not have seen anything, and multiple reporters on the event who give us their views on what happened.An historical fiction lovers delight Someday I will likely read this again to try to trace how Pears did this slight of hand.One quote from the book I ll add as a socio political aside, acknowledging this is a book written in modern times to reflect 17th century attitudes We put up in an inn, where we rested ourselves until the execution the next morning the girl made a wretched speech and quite lost the sympathy of the crowd It had been a complicated case and the town was by no means convinced of her guilt She had killed a man whom she said had raped her, but the jury judged this a lie because she had fallen pregnant, which cannot occur without the woman taking pleasure in the act Normally her condition would have spared her the gallows, but she had lost the child and also any defense against the hangman An unfortunate outcome, which those who believed in her guilt considered divine Providence Seems to me I recall a 21st century politician espousing this same belief about rape, sadly Just couldn t leave this out Iain Pears is a Coventry born and Oxford educated art historian and author of historical mysteries, and An Instance of the Fingerpost is his most famous novel Good historians are not necessarily good authors and good authors are not necessarily good historians, but in Fingerpost Pears manages to strike a comfortable balance between both professions An Instance of the Fingerpost is a long but involving book, which pays great attention to its historical setting and theme, but at the same time ma Iain Pears is a Coventry born and Oxford educated art historian and author of historical mysteries, and An Instance of the Fingerpost is his most famous novel Good historians are not necessarily good authors and good authors are not necessarily good historians, but in Fingerpost Pears manages to strike a comfortable balance between both professions An Instance of the Fingerpost is a long but involving book, which pays great attention to its historical setting and theme, but at the same time manages to weave in a compelling, involving mystery, full of smoking guns and false trails, and one which will not reveal itself to the reader until the very end to the book.The book is set in Oxford in 1633, after the end of the English Civil War, just after the monarchy of King Charles II has been restored Although the war is over, Oliver Cromwell is dead, and the monarch is officially in power, the early Restoration years were a tumultuous period England was still very much divided politically between Royalist supporters and opposing Parliamentarians Even places such as Oxford the intellectual center of the country, and the place of great intellectual debates are not safe for political dissent, and just a few overheard words can grant one a great deal of trouble And despite great scientific advancement and discoveries of the age, religion is present in all entitlements of society from one s personal beliefs and superstitions to academic work and scientific research, contrasing the newly developed scientific method with ancient, medieval beliefs The events of the novel are set in motion by the death of Robert Grove, an fellow of the New College Although the exact circumstances of his death are unclear, all signs point to poison soon a young woman named Sarah Blundy is accused of his murder The novel is narrated by four different narrators, each of which tells his version of the story Marco da Cola, a Venetian Catholic physician who has just arrived in England Jack Prescott, son of a Royalist traitor who is bound on clearing his father s name John Wallis, a genius mathematician and cryptographer who served both Cromwell and Charles II, who has a fondness for conspiracies and lastly Anthony Wood, an Oxford antiquarian Each of these characters maneuvers through the web of Oxford rivalries and plots, and has his own version of the story to tell.Although the book s mystery begins as a classic whodunnit surrounding the death of an Oxford Don, it soon becomes apparent that the real mystery surrounds the nature of discovery, investigation, understanding and ultimately truth itself The title is a quotation borrowed from the 17th century philosopher Francis Bacon, who in his Novum Organum wrote about the nature of reasoning and the fallibility of evidence, but accounted for instances of the fingerpost crucial instances which pointed in only one direction, sure and indissoluble, allowing for no other possibility Such is the case with the book although I felt a little disappointed by the ending view spoiler I felt that the introduction of a supernatural theme was unnecessary it looked like Pears wrote himself into a corner, and had to resort to the supernatural to solve the plot and tie all its ends Although to his credit we have to take into account that even the supernatural event is narrated by one of the characters, who has his own bias and perhaps is telling us what he wished had happened instead of what has actually taken place hide spoiler But do not let my complaint stop you from trying the book Pears has a keen eye and a sharp pen, and has written a novel where the setting is also a character, and Oxford University the sheltered intellectual vacuum is a miniature of 17th century England, which truly comes to life with all the ways of the time, along with its sights and smells The writing is excellent, the storyline very compelling and Pears switches effortlessly between the cast of intriguing characters, real and fictional I particularly enjoyed Marco de Cola s perspective on England and English ways and the mystery unravels new twists and contradictions with every page This is an ideal novel to get lost in during these colder, winter days if you don t think that a long, historical mystery of England in the 17th century cannot be absorbing, I d recommend trying An Instance of the Fingerpost This is one of the few books that I felt compelled to start immediately again, from page one, after reaching the end even though it has close to 700 pages.The story of this thriller is retold, in succession, by four different people One of them lies and not until the very end does the reader know who is falsifying the story And that is why I wanted to read it again to pay attention to the structure and to how the story is woven by different points of view, and see where the liar has fabric This is one of the few books that I felt compelled to start immediately again, from page one, after reaching the end even though it has close to 700 pages.The story of this thriller is retold, in succession, by four different people One of them lies and not until the very end does the reader know who is falsifying the story And that is why I wanted to read it again to pay attention to the structure and to how the story is woven by different points of view, and see where the liar has fabricated or left holes.I am writing this review years after having read the book A lot of the particulars are therefore no longer easily retrievable from my brain I also loved the language I hope to read it at least a third time Edit Jan 2018 Added the right version of the audio bookOne murder.One young woman, Sarah Blundy, suspected to be the murderer and already found guilty by almost everyone before her trial starts.Four men of different backgrounds who recount the events that led to the murder and beyond.One of them is lying.Up until now, I ve always considered The Name of the Rose as the best historical fiction I ever read I m omitting the word mystery on purpose here, as though definitely a murder mystery Edit Jan 2018 Added the right version of the audio bookOne murder.One young woman, Sarah Blundy, suspected to be the murderer and already found guilty by almost everyone before her trial starts.Four men of different backgrounds who recount the events that led to the murder and beyond.One of them is lying.Up until now, I ve always considered The Name of the Rose as the best historical fiction I ever read I m omitting the word mystery on purpose here, as though definitely a murder mystery it only serves as a kick start, the first layer of a multi layered story that immersed me as much on the third or fourth re read as it had done the very first time As long as one is willing to grind through the first 150 pages, of course Dare I say it The Name of the Rose will now have to share that position with An Instance of the Fingerpost This book is a master piece of storytelling I was glued to it from the first or rather, I had my earphones glued to my ears, as I listened to the audio version.The reader is taken back to the time shortly after the collapse of Oliver Cromwell s Commonwealth and the restoration of Charles II Both figures play only a peripheral role in the plot Theimportant element here is what Cromwell s reign and the Restoration meant to the four men and all the other characters involved how they were shaped by these events and what position they d find themselves in.It is also the time where science takes its first big leaps We re only two and a half decades away from Newton s Laws But science is still considered as an instrument to prove God s wonders on earth The scientists are deeply religious and superstitious Unicorns do exist, after all I m not joking here, by the way, and it s very important to the story that these men are deeply religious.Because what are witness accounts if not subjective interpretations of the truth Marco da Cola, the Venetian son of a merchant, on business in London who ends up in Oxford, is the first to tell his version of the people he meets, the murder he doesn t witness none of them actually sees how the victim is murdered , Sarah Blundy s trial and death and the aftermath But worry not All four men don t simply repeat what happens They give an insight into their own lives, their motivations and priorities And along the way, we have some parts overlapping But it s the interpretations of the events which made the book such a wonderful experience Each account is distinctive and extremely interesting.None of them is reliable in their recounting of the events These men aren t Adson von Melk or Matthew Shardlake.Well, maybe one man isreliable than the other, and maybe I already knew after Marco da Cola s version that there wasto everything he had said But not because I thought he had been lying It wasa feeling that there wasbehind it all Maybe I guessed, at the very least, one part correctly But that didn t diminish my enjoyment one bit On the contrary, it was ingenious This is what superb storytelling is about Taking one part, which seemingly is at the heart of the story, but going ahead and showing the complexity of human nature, which ultimately always ends in one question What drives us The author definitely achieved that AndKnowing I couldn t rely on their versions, I had to listen carefully to the clues And quite honestly, I ll be the first to admit that I missed a lot of them, and I won t blame the fact that I was listening to the audio version whilst being busy with something else instead of reading, which obviously always requires my whole attention But I m not sure I would have seen the clues even if I had read it first Question is, of course, did the author leave any clues Maybe, maybe not I am reading the Kindle version at the moment But I will never know now as I know the whole story already.But whether I missed the clues, or the author simply didn t leave any clues, doesn t matter An Instance of the Fingerpost is simply mesmerising fascinating in its ability to show what life was like shortly after Charles II was restored how science was a subordinate part of religious beliefs how political ambitions could elevate or destroy a person s life I was actually about to say something about the ending but I won t I would have considered it a spoiler, however vague it would have been But I kept in mind who these men were, so I wasthan satisfied with it.Two things I d like to add.One is a trigger warning, which I rarely ever do There s a rape scene It s not descriptive and over very quickly That being said, it was from the rapist s point of view, and that was difficult to stomach.Secondly, the audio version listed here, isn t the one I listened to I m not a GR librarian and had to add the audio version to the various editions However, I was unable to add the unabridged version I listened to Somebody else added the abridged version The one I listened to, has four narrators and the narration itself was incredible, and a cool 29 hours long I m not mentioning this only because it s filed under the abridged version The narrators give each of the other characters their own voices the way the four men perceived the people they are talking about While Da Cola lets Sarah Blundy s mother talk almost like an angel, Jack Prescott, the second person to tell his version, makes the mother sound like a witch Perfectly done Last but not least, a big thanks to Georgie and her review I m not sure I would have gone for it, had it not been for her review well, I guess it s sort of read.I mean, I read as damn much as I could which was roughly 1 3 it was going nowhere, and honestly, I didn t find it compelling enough to move much further there s a sort of mystery I couldn t really get into, and there s regular and, at the end of the book, carefully cited appearances by british scientists and philosophers of the period, but there was nothing that actually made me want to pay attention I didn t care about the characters or their progress. An extremely engaging historical novel set in 1660s Oxford, with a side trip to London Told from four viewpoints of varying reliability, this murder mystery gets gradually revealed as the story unfolds The murder itself is consequential only in that it serves as a device to tie the main characters together Mystery fans may wish to know if the novel sets out clues leading to whodunnit but I can t help here as I did not try to solve it This novel wears very well upon re reading and may be An extremely engaging historical novel set in 1660s Oxford, with a side trip to London Told from four viewpoints of varying reliability, this murder mystery gets gradually revealed as the story unfolds The murder itself is consequential only in that it serves as a device to tie the main characters together Mystery fans may wish to know if the novel sets out clues leading to whodunnit but I can t help here as I did not try to solve it This novel wears very well upon re reading and may be a desert island book for me at least top 100 because it so richly sets up 17th Century England the overthrow and reinstallation of The Monarchy, the conflict between radical protestants and the Church of England, the tension between forward looking nascent science then called Natural Philosophy and backward looking classical medicine We closely observe a witch and her craft , a physician who badly wishes to complete the first modern book on anatomy, the second greatest mathemetician in England behind Newton , and get glimpses of other luiminaries such as Robert Boyle of the famous gas law and Thurloe of political intrigue forgotten by all but scholars of the time Readers will get a feel for the practice of medicine, justice, science, alchemy, and the difficulty of life for those not fortunate to be well born.Highest Recommendation say six to seven stars UPDATEThe 4 narrators in order of narration 1 Marco DiCola from Italy Venice He has been sent by is father because his English partner is cheating him He holds a letter of introduction to an Oxford Luminary, thus his reason to frequent Oxford inns and pubs He runs around with the anatomist Richard Lower a historical figure He comments extensively on English culture including a Shakepeare play , food it s bad , and manners barbaric He has training in medicine and treats the witches elderly mother He also goes on rounds with Lower travelling from town to town He witnesses several trials including one which swirls around the central mystery all the jurors are property owners no women of course 2 Jack Prestcott, whose father was disgraced as a Loyalist when Cromwell won and who wishes to restore his estate and father s good name 3 Wallis the cryptographer who has had dealings with Thurloe as does young Prestcott His paranoia causes him to see conspiracies much as Prestcott does 4 Anthony Wood a historian who witnesses that which he ought not and who is besotted if not bewitched with the witch who cleans for Wood s mother The witch is Sarah Blundy whose father was a Cromwell intriguer and who has fallen on hard times since his death ADDENDUM 2017NOV6 star, desert island books are sufficiently worthy enough to get repeated notice to that end, I offer links below to professional reviews that offer a littlelandscape and historical context.But first a few teasers in the grand Hollywood traditionFingerpost is utterly mesmerizing, an intellectual thrillerOliver Cromwell is dead the Levellers, Diggers and other such factions with their wild dreams of an egalitarian society have been destroyed or dispersed peace, finally, has returned to a ravaged landor has it with perfect mastery Pears gradually takes us from an unexplained death in a small college town to a revelation that could shake the foundations of England and the world Dr Robert Grove is found dead suddenly poisoned in his chambers Who did it And,important, whyAnd somesober nuggetsOne of the pleasures of reading Fingerpost is the opportunity it affords to become a kind of amateur expert on daily life in Restoration England intelligent and well written for the reader who likes to be teased, who likes his plots as baroque and ingenious as possible, Fingerpost will not disappointwould like to note that none of these reviewers expect to like the 17th century characters that play in the novel Judged by 2017 sensibilities, few perhaps none of them would be thought suitable as polite company , so ridden are they with bias, superstition, and ladies note misogyny There is plenty of characterization to be had in Fingerpost just don t expect good character For instance, the jurors mentioned above, would all be disqualified by the judge in an American 2017 rape trial He need only ask whether they believe that pregnancy can result from rape check superstition box The 3rd narrator reveals that he has invested well in the New World slave trade check bias box, with a racist pen Not only was this remunerative, but the Africans, so enslaved, were saved by the ship s Captain who had revealed God s grace to them Thanks to the Washington Post s Michael Dirda and fellow GoodReader, Jeffery Keeten, who resurrected this nugget I thank author Pears for enhancing my poor education He recounts and alludes to the English Civil War and the uprising of religious sects counter to the Chuch of England which undoubtedly informed American Founders with their own nation building in the next Century I leave you with one last quote thanks again to Michael DirdaIain Pears has written an impressively original and audaciously imaginative intellectual thriller Don t miss it