Read An Instance of the Fingerpost By Iain Pears – 91videos.co

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


10 thoughts on “An Instance of the Fingerpost

  1. says:

    When in a Search of any Nature the Understanding stands suspended, then Instances of the Fingerpost shew the true and inviolable Way in which the Question is to be decided 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 Francis Bacon, Novum Organum Scientarum, Section XXXVI, Aphorism XXI Oliver Cromwell, not really relevant to this book except for the destabilized government he left after his death.It is the 1660s 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 do It is as if they believed they could torment the departed soul with what they do with the empty shell Regardless, Cromwell s death left a power vacuum that was proving difficult to fill It is easy to confuse Oliver Cromwell with Thomas Cromwell as both did rise to great heights of power Oliver is a descendant of Thomas s older sister 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 1649 Charles Junior was technically back in charge, but his powers had been severely curtailed He wasn t that worried about the extent of his power as he was concerned about fornicating, gambling, and having the best possible time that English peasant taxes could buy 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 Don t worry these are not rehashing of the same information over and over again 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 of arsenic that seized his heart and left him a cooling, yet still flatulent, corpse with a host of suspects Our first narrator is Marco da 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 that 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 Da Cola meets Sarah Blundy when he offers to help heal her mother s broken leg 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 was playing a game with us all, and was confident of his success, and he was now underestimating his audience as I had underestimated him 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 John Wallis John Wallis, a very serious man who has trained himself to discover conspiracies.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 I m taking him out of order simply because he had such a juicy assessment of da Cola He is a Christian man and invests his money accordingly I had placed to advantage some small part of my surplus funds in the East Indies, and also with a gentleman who captured Africans for the Americas This latter was by far the finest investment I ever made, the so because the captain of the vessel assured me 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 Well he was against slavery, but if the crusty bastard who captains the vessel is willing to hold prayer meetings with them all across the ocean than he was in It is so nice to turn a healthy profit and save souls at the same time We are supposed to 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 For instance, he knows about the downfall of Jack Prestcott s father than what he is willing to share Because of the intersection of characters Prestcott s obsession with discovering the truth about his father gets wrapped up in the investigations of Grove s murderer Tully says true, a dux quidem immortalibusquae potest homini major esse poena furore atque dementia, what greater punishment can the gods inflict upon a man that madness Jack is the second narrator He is convinced that Sarah Blundy is a witch After he raped her, he did have to rough her up as the silly bitch wouldn t just lay there and take it like the wanton slut he assumed her to be, he was convinced she put a curse on him You may have been born a gentleman that is your misfortune 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 How do you know I see your soul, She said, her voice suddenly dropping to a whisper which chilled my blood I know what it is and what is its shape I can feel it hiss in the night and taste its coldness in the day I hear it burning, and I touch its hate As much as I wish that Sarah had been capable of putting a curse on Jack it simply wasn t the case His own mind put a curse on him He was sure she was his enemy, why wouldn t he He certainly gave her just cause He turns out to be much 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 Grove The fourth narrator is Anthony Wood, an antiquary and historian, best known for his diaries that were published long after his death He gets Sarah a job with his parents and also recommended her for the job at Grove s 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 I sinned against the law, against God s word reported, I abused my family and exposed them even to risk of public shame, I again risked permanent exclusion from those rooms and books which were my delight and my whole occupation yet in all the years that have passed since I have regretted only one thing that it was but a passing moment, never repeated, for I have never been closer to God, nor felt his love and goodness An engraving of Anthony Wood.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 PearsIain 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 and 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 the narrators reveal to us they believe to be true, but they are all guilty of their own suppositions colored by 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 book that most of us will discover that we were wrong Highly Recommended I have been spared riches and fame and power and position, just as His goodness has saved me from poverty and great illness Anthony WoodIf you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at


  2. says:

    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.


  3. says:

    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 say horns 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.


  4. says:

    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.


  5. says:

    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


  6. says:

    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.


  7. says:

    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 The important 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 is reliable than the other, and maybe I already knew after Marco da Cola s version that there was to everything he had said But not because I thought he had been lying It was a feeling that there was behind 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 And Knowing 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 was than 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.


  8. says:

    Iain Pears is an Oxford born and 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


  9. says:

    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 little landscape and historical context.But first a few teasers in the grand Hollywood tradition Fingerpost is utterly mesmerizing, an intellectual thriller Oliver 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 land or 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, why And some sober nuggets One 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 disappoint would 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 Dirda Iain Pears has written an impressively original and audaciously imaginative intellectual thriller Don t miss it


  10. says:

    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.