Tuesday, July 24, 2012

An Instance of the Fingerpost

An Instance of the Fingerpost is a 1997 historical fiction mystery by Iain Pears. It takes place in and around Oxford and is the story of a murder told from 4 different points of view. These points of view not only differ but sometimes directly contradict each other. If the book were shorter I would re-read it right now just to see the stories again now that I've heard them all. It's 691 pages. I'm moving on. But it was an intriguing read, and someday I may well re-read it.

from the dust jacket:
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.

An Instance of the Fingerpost 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.

The Washington Post says, "one fact stands out with perfect clarity: Iain Pears has written an impressively original and audaciously imaginative intellectual thriller. Don't miss it." Steven Wu calls it "an intricate, enthralling, and well written masterpiece." Penguin has a reading guide.

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