AN INSTANCE OF THE FINGERPOST by Iain Pears

AN INSTANCE OF THE FINGERPOST

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Nothing in Pears's five archly amusing art mysteries (Giotto's Hand, p. 839; The Last Judgement, 1996, etc.) hints at the range or depth or boldness of this multifaceted scrutiny of a murder case in Restoration Oxford. Opinionated, influential Dr. Robert Grove is poisoned with arsenic in his New College lodgings. A missing signet ring leads his colleagues to his former servant (and rumored strumpet) Sarah Blundy, who, swiftly brought to trial, confesses and is promptly hanged--and dissected by enthusiastic physician Richard Lower. But the crime, evidently so simple in its events, is presented through the distorting lenses of four narrators whose obsessions place it in dramatically different contexts. Visiting Venetian Marco da Cola, a dandy trained in medicine, who has been treating Sarah's ailing mother Anne, grieves for the ruin of mother and daughter and the wreck of his own friendship with Lower. Sarah's former lover Jack Prestcott, an undergraduate jailed for attacking his guardian, is consumed with proving that his exiled father was hounded to his death innocent of the charge of treason the returning monarch Charles II's supporters had lodged against him. Dr. John Wallis, mathematician and divine, sees no inconsistency between his endless petty intrigues on behalf of Charles's scheming minister Henry Bennet and his vituperative condemnation of Sarah. In the brilliantly illuminated world in which medical experiments, religious and political debates between Roundheads and Royalists, and the founding of the Royal Society bring debates about the nature of science, history, religion, and authority into a focus whose sharpness has a special urgency for our own time, each of these narrators has his own slashingly conflicting claims to make. But it's not until the final narrator, burrowing historian Anthony Wood, weighs in to judge among the sharply competing visions of the earlier narrators that Pears produces his most memorable surprises, or unveils his deepest mysteries. Rashomon meets The Name of the Rose in a triumphant triple-decker that knocks every speck of dust from the historical mystery. (First printing of 80,000; $150,000 ad/promo; Book-of-the-Month main selection)

Pub Date: March 9th, 1998
ISBN: 1-57322-082-5
Page count: 704pp
Publisher: Riverhead
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1997




MORE BY IAIN PEARS

FictionSTONE’S FALL by Iain Pears
by Iain Pears
FictionTHE PORTRAIT by Iain Pears
by Iain Pears
FictionTHE DREAM OF SCIPIO by Iain Pears
by Iain Pears

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

IndieAndy's Story by R. A. Lang
by R. A. Lang
IndieThe Arsonist's Last Words by Alison R. Lockwood
by Alison R. Lockwood
IndiePORT ROYAL by Robert Polevoi
by Robert Polevoi