A national bestseller and one of the New York Public Library’s Books to Remember, An Instance of the Fingerpost is a thrilling historical mystery from Iain Pears. AN INSTANCE OF THE FINGERPOST [Iain Pears] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Set in Oxford in the s – a time and place of great. An Instance of the Fingerpost [Iain Pears] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. In Oxford, a servant girl confesses to a murder. But four.

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An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears. An ingenious tour de force: We 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, An ingenious tour de force: 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: Each tells his own version of what fingerppst. Only one reveals the extraordinary truth. With 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: Paperbackpages. Published April 1st by Riverhead Books first published Oxford, England Martin Beck Award To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about An Instance of the Fingerpostplease sign up. Be the first to ask a question about An Instance of the Fingerpost.

Lists with This Book. These Instances afford great Light, so that the Course of the Investigation will sometimes be terminated by them. Sometimes, indeed, these Instances are found amongst that Evidence already set down. It is the s and England is still in turmoil after the death of Oliver Cromwell. He unnaturally died of natural causes though he was later dug up, hung in chains, and ceremoniously beheaded.

Torturing a corpse seems like an odd thing to fingedpost. It is as if they believed they could torment the departed soul with what they do with the empty shell. It is easy to confuse Oliver Cromwell with Thomas Cromwell as both did rise to great heights of power. Thomas worked for Henry the VIII and did lose his head not unusual for anyone who worked closely with the colossally paranoid King. Charles II has been allowed to return to the throne taken from his father Charles I was beheaded, while alive, not another bit of corpse desecration in Charles Junior was technically back in charge, but fingsrpost powers had been severely curtailed.

Given what happened to his father and the life he had on the run, fearing assassination, maybe it makes sense that Charles II devoted his life to the pursuit of pleasure. But that is all on the periphery of our story, merely serving as a backdrop for a good old fashioned English murder mystery. The book is split into four parts each section told by a different narrator each with their own unique view of events. New, critical information is released with each changing perspective.


The victim is Dr. Robert Grove, an amateur astrologer of New College, Oxford. Like many men, then and now, he liked a glass of alcoholic liquor at the end of the day to calm his frazzled nerves and hopefully give him a gentle push off into the land of Morpheus. Unfortunately with the brandy was a tincture finngerpost arsenic that seized his heart and left him a cooling, yet still flatulent, corpse with a host of suspects. Our first narrator is Marco iai Cola, a rather flamboyantly dressed young man from Venice who is in London on business for his father.

He is having pecuniary difficulties and needs sources of ready cash. He turns his hand to being a physician, untrained, but it seems fingerlost in this time period men with a degree in most anything would occasionally turn their hand to doctoring.

The descriptions of the superstitions that were still dictating prescribed treatment by a physician of this time period made it very clear that one had to be very desperate to seek care at all. He needs a client even if it is unlikely that Sarah can pay his fee with hard coin.

There is something, though, not quite right about Marco da Cola. He did not realize that I saw, that instant, into his soul and perceived the devilish intent that lay hidden there, coiled and waiting to unleashed when all around had been lulled into thinking him a fool.

What is it with da Cola being do damned friendly as well! Wallis, Professor of Geometry at Oxford and the greatest English mathematician before Newton was also a cryptographer for parliament. Because he was so immersed in the intrigues of court he caught some of the paranoia that was part and parcel of a king and his handlers that felt anything but in control. He sees grand conspiracies where maybe the odd behavior of some people has to do with something altogether different than plotting the downfall of the government.

He is our third narrator. He is a Christian man and invests his money accordingly. This latter was by far the finest investment I ever made, the more so because the captain th the vessel assured instwnce the slaves were instructed vigorously in the virtues of Christianity on their voyage across the ocean and thus had their souls saved at the same time as they produced valuable labor for others.

It is so nice to turn a healthy profit and save souls at the same time. We are supposed tye believe this investment is about souls and not about gold. Wallis is an expert in cyphers, certainly one of the best minds for puzzles living in this time period. In fact, he periodically receives offers to work for other governments, but he is as fervently patriotic for England as he is about saving the souls of black slaves.

Jack is the second narrator. He is convinced that Sarah Blundy is a witch. But your actions are those of one far lower than any man I have ever known. You violated me, although I gave you no cause to do so. You then spread foul and malicious rumors about me, so I am dismissed from my place, and jeered at in the streets, and called whore.

You have taken my good name, and all you offer in return is your apology, said with no meaning and less sincerity. If you felt it in your soul, I could accept easily, but you do not. I can feel it hiss in the night and taste its coldness in the day. I hear it burning, and I touch its hate. His own mind put a curse on him. He certainly gave her just cause. He turns out to be much more than a rapist, but also a liar and a manufacturer of evidence.


Sarah, because she had worked for Dr. Grove, and was known as a willful woman, meaning she was likely to defend herself verbally if assaulted verbally, is the most convenient number one suspect in the poisoning of the Dr. The fourth narrator is Anthony Wood, an antiquary and historian, best known for his diaries that were published long after his death. He carries a torch for Sarah. Despite the risks, he has a night of passion with her that goes beyond lust and reaches the first hills and dales of love.

An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears

You will like Anthony Wood. He is probably the only man in this novel lacking in guile. A man who gives loyalty and understands the true responsibility of the word, not just when it is convenient, but from the first breath as he gives it to the last breath as he expires. Iain Pears Iain Pears has built this four layered cake of a novel, each layer is sprinkled with truth, but lies and half truths are hidden in the batter ot the frosting. The reader is forced to pay attention to each bite, each paragraph, each lick, each word as the twists and turns of this plot are patiently revealed.

Most of what iaim narrators reveal to us they believe to be true, but they are all guilty of their own suppositions colored fingerpist their own prejudices.

The reader feels like an investigator, barraged with different views, conflicting stories, and it is only in the final moments of the intsance that most of us will discover that we were wrong. View all 58 comments. Aug 21, Chris rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: 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.

Jan 19, Paul Bryant rated it fingdrpost not like it Shelves: There is a murder and there is a dispossessed heir. Vast estates yanked from under the noses of their rightful heirs and all of that. Alas, the whole plot of this very long There is a murder and there is a dispossessed heir. 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 when King Charles has just been restored to the throne and the air was thick with a great many cloaks and accompanying daggers.