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Location: Vero Beach, Florida, United States

My name is Pat and I live in Florida. My skin will never be smooth again and my hair will never see color. I enjoy collecting autographs and playing in Paint Shop Pro.,along with reading and writing. Sometimes, I enjoy myself by doing volunteer "work" helping celebrities at autograph shows. I love animals and at one time I did volunteer work for Tippi Hedren's Shambala Preserve.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

An Instance of the Fingerpost

An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears.

Paperback: 704 pages
Publisher: Riverhead Trade;(April 10, 2000)
ISBN-10: 1573227951 Review

An Instance of the Fingerpost is that rarest of all possible literary beasts--a mystery powered as much by ideas as by suspects, autopsies, and smoking guns. Hefty, intricately plotted, and intellectually ambitious, Fingerpost has drawn the inevitable comparisons to Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose and, for once, the comparison is apt.

The year is 1663, and the setting is Oxford, England, during the height of Restoration political intrigue. When Dr. Robert Grove is found dead in his Oxford room, hands clenched and face frozen in a rictus of pain, all the signs point to poison. Rashomon-like, the narrative circles around Grove's murder as four different characters give their version of events: Marco da Cola, a visiting Italian physician--or so he would like the reader to believe; Jack Prestcott, the son of a traitor who fled the country to avoid execution; Dr. John Wallis, a mathematician and cryptographer with a predilection for conspiracy theories; and Anthony Wood, a mild-mannered Oxford antiquarian whose tale proves to be the book's "instance of the fingerpost." (The quote comes from the philosopher Bacon, who, while asserting that all evidence is ultimately fallible, allows for "one instance of a fingerpost that points in one direction only, and allows of no other possibility.")

Like The Name of the Rose, this is one whodunit in which the principal mystery is the nature of truth itself. Along the way, Pears displays a keen eye for period details as diverse as the early days of medicine, the convoluted politics of the English Civil War, and the newfangled fashion for wigs. Yet Pears never loses sight of his characters, who manage to be both utterly authentic denizens of the 17th century and utterly authentic human beings. As a mystery, An Instance of the Fingerpost is entertainment of the most intelligent sort; as a novel of ideas, it proves equally satisfying.

Gads,... I did not expect to pick up this book when I did.. nor... did I expect to enjoy it quite as much as I did... nor.. did I expect to be able to read some 700 pages as quickly as I did!  I guess you could say: this is a good book!

Written much in the style of Wilke Collins, this is a murder mystery which takes place in England in the 1600's, and it told by 4 people who were there at the time, but see the characters and events quite differently.   Which bodes well for the old saying:  Do not believe anything you hear, and only half of what you see.

As you read the story by each person you begin to feel like a person on a jury.. who is telling the truth?  ... who do I believe? .. and why do so many people see the same incident in so many ways?

I quite enjoyed this book, and once again I don't remember who's reviews sent me to Amazon to purchase it some time ago.  I think I remember reading more than one review for me to chance such a large book!  But if you like historical mysteries I would say that you would most likely like this book.

I didn't even realize that I have a second book by the same author in my tbr pile, but it is another rather large read.  I think I will choose a book a bit shorter before going into another chunkster as the Fingerpost is.

So if you are not afraid of a book over 700 pages long.. I'd recommend this one and see if you can figure out "who done it" before the end of the book!


Blogger Cath said...

Glad you enjoyed this one, Pat. It's encoraging me to read it now. Or I could keep it for RIP. Except that my pile for that is quite big already...

2:43 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Oh this sounds good! I love historical mysteries! Ever since I read Fingersmith awhile ago I've been looking for more like that and this sounds a lot like it (even in the title!). The page count does scare me quite a bit :p But you said you flew through it pretty quickly, so I think I'm going to try it out...onto the wishlist!

5:39 PM  
Blogger DesLily said...

hi Cath: it's kinda big for rip but I did read Drood and that was big... I just show a list that I choose from (mostly) but one doesn't "have to"..

Chris: yeah I knew there were two books out with names close the same. I'm surprised I liked it. I thought I'd get tired of 4 people talking about the same time and murder..but it was interesting to wonder who you believe. And I won't tell you if you find out who did the murder or not lol lol

6:31 PM  
Blogger Sheila Beaumont said...

Sounds like a good one. I'm adding it to my list of possible to-reads.

Soon I'll be reading another chunkster, The Passage by Justin Cronin, 765 pages. Probably not your sort of thing. It's an apocalyptic tale, similar to Stephen King's The Stand. And I'm thinking of rereading The Stand, which is 1150 pages!

8:04 PM  
Blogger Pamela said...

you should sit out by the pond and read ???

2:45 AM  
Blogger DesLily said...

sheila:When a book is real good I love a chunkster..but they are difficult to hold!

Pam: ahhhh no. The noseeme's would eat you alive and if they didn't even in the shade of a tree you would melt. Now, in the winter I can do that! (our winter that is, which is only 6-8 weeks long)

7:05 AM  
Blogger Debi said...

Oh, this does sound really good! I wish I wasn't such a wimp when it comes to chunksters. I didn't use to be, but for some reason "over 500 pages" now seems to scare the crap out of me.

8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had this book, languishing for the longest time in my shelf. I think its thickness is what makes me say, "another time...". But your review convinces me to pull it way up front so I can get down to it this year. :)

10:13 AM  
Blogger DesLily said...

debi: i just figure big or small if I dont' like it I will put it down. the only real downfall to me is holding the large books gets heavy

jo:lol that's ok I have 4 or 5 other huge books that I keep putting off too lol

10:45 AM  

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