Book Reviews of An Instance of the Fingerpost

An Instance of the Fingerpost
An Instance of the Fingerpost
Author: Iain Pears
ISBN-13: 9781573220828
ISBN-10: 1573220825
Publication Date: 1998
Pages: 691
Rating:
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 21

3.5 stars, based on 21 ratings
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Book Type: Hardcover
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

23 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 55 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 6
This book has become one of my all-time favorites. Very well written. I don't have any knowledge of (or specific interest in) 1600s England, but the plot and the writing make it fascinating. I loved how each witness gives you a different look at an event that you thought you knew from the previous witness. The story just builds and builds. Even if you don't "like" the characters, you can learn from each one. It is a thick novel, but worth the time spent to read it!
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 19 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 6
This is a really excellent read! The writing style is tough, but if you can get through it, you'll be in for a treat! I didn't like many of the characters in the book either, but I was so sucked in, there was no way I was going to stop reading it. With each character's version of the story, more truth is revealed and more mystery added! The author really was masterful with this book. The ending is excellent! I don't usually re-read books, but I may go back to this book again someday. I think knowing the ending, it would be fun to go back through it and miss all the "fingerposts" along the way!
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 40 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
I cannot say enough about this book to the point that I just found and ordered the hardback copy to accompany my paperback. I absolutely love the way Iain Pears writes this novel, using point of view, very descriptive language, and a stunningly convincing plot to carry the reader through what could be an intimidating size of book. This book is well worth the time, effort and credit.
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 115 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
Excellent mystery told from 4 different viewpoints.
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 38 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Amazon.com
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.
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 118 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
This is a gem of a book, I happened upon it in a remainder sale. It's an historical mystery, which is not my usual reach-for genre; I'm a historical fiction buff, but mysteries not so much. I ended up totally engrossed by this tale, which is indeed a murder mystery told from 4 different character points of view. Each tells the story in his own perspective, very believeably. The genius of the tale is that you are left to decide whose version you think is the truth. Very detailed historical context, centered on the mid-1600s, the time of the restoration of King Charles II in England; the details are so refined and accurate that you end up with a great understanding of life as it must have been then. I recommend it highly.
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 6 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Who saw it, who said it, who done it? Multiple narrators make for an intriguing storytelling device, but the fingerpost can only point in one direction. Intricate plot, masses of historical details, unsettling portrait of murderous politics, brutal living conditions, and numerous unlikable characters...I can see why some abandon the read, but the conclusion is haunting enough to justify slogging through.
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 22 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
***** For those who want a literate mystery this is the ticket. Intricate plot, characters right out of history, powerful language. A stunning read!
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 38 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Fanscinating! A combination of the best historical and mystery. Along the line of Umberto Eco.
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on
Helpful Score: 2
If you love historical mysteries, particularly The Name of the Rose, you'll enjoy this book. Set near the English Civil War, An Instance of the Fingerpost lets you unravel the mystery of an Oxford don's death, the nature of truth, and the experience of 17th century England through the tales of four very different narrators. It's a great vacation read!
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 159 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Oxford 1663: Dr. Grove is murdered in his chambers. The prime suspect is a servant woman who is subsequently sentenced to death by hanging.

Four people tell their version of the events that led to this death: Marco da Cola, a traveler from Venice, a merchant's son, who happened to be in the neighborhood; James Prestcott, intent on proving that his father was not a traitor to England; Dr. Wallis, famed mathematician, who lived close to Dr. Grove, and whose specialty is deciphering codes; and Mr. Wood, historian, acquainted with all involved.

This is a great piece of historical writing - I found it interesting to read about this time period. Not to mention that it will keep you guessing until the end!

P.S. The online Merriam-Webster defines Fingerpost as ...
1 : a post bearing one or more signs often terminating in a pointing finger
2 : something serving as a guide to understanding or knowledge
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 15 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
It was an exciting change in the method of writing and the historical characters made it all the more interesting. I really enjoyed reading this book. It starts just a tad laborious, but it evolves into a real strange and different finish.
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 17 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
historical detective story. once you get into it -- wow.
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 362 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Unfortunately, I could only read about half of this book (300 pages of 733) because I disliked the main characters. The story is told from four viewpoints, I believe, and the first two viewpoints were characters I didn't care for a bit. Character one, a foppish self-centered Italian in Oxford. Character two, a self-centered English rapist, among other things. 300 pages was enough.
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 24 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I really enjoyed this book,the more I read it kept getting better and better.
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 122 more book reviews
4 cassettes, approx. 6 hours. 4 different stories - except that they are all different viewpoints around the same chain of events, told by 4 different witnesses. A very interesting listen.
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 9 more book reviews
Interesting approach to a mystery! Recommend taking notes on characters so you can keep them straight. I didn't and think I lost a lot as a result.
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 9 more book reviews
Historical fiction by one of the best contemporary writers.
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 28 more book reviews
Incredibly well read by Paul Michael
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 355 more book reviews
A man dies in medieval Oxford, and the story surrounding this incident is described in 4 different accounts by 4 characters. Complex and sometimes confusing, but intriguing.
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 48 more book reviews
From Amazon.com: 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.
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 30 more book reviews
We are in Oxford in the 1660s - a time, and place, of great intellectual, scientific, religious and political ferment. Robert Grove, a fellow of New College is found dead in suspicious circumstances. A young woman is accused of his murder. We hear about the events surrounding his death from four witnesses: Marco da Cola, a Venetian Catholic intent on claiming credit for the invention of blood transfusion; Jack Prescott, the son of a supposed traitor to the Royalist cause determined to vindicate his father; John Wallis, chief cryptographer to both Cromwell and Charles II, a mathematician, theologican and inveterate plotter; and Anthony Wood, the famous Oxford antiquary. Each witness tells their version of what happened. Only one reveals the extraordinary truth.
reviewed An Instance of the Fingerpost on + 76 more book reviews
Never was able to read.