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AN INSTANCE OF THE FINGERPOST.

Pears, Iain.

ISBN 10: 009975181X / ISBN 13: 9780099751816
Published by RIVERHEAD BOOKS. NY 1998, 1998
Condition: Near Fine Soft cover
From WAVERLEY BOOKS ABAA (Santa Monica, CA, U.S.A.)

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First American Edition. UNCORRECTED PROOF. Near fine in pictorial printed wrappers. (Slight shelfwear to upper edge of spine) The author's major work to date. Bookseller Inventory # 3964

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Bibliographic Details

Title: AN INSTANCE OF THE FINGERPOST.

Publisher: RIVERHEAD BOOKS. NY 1998

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Softcover

Book Condition:Near Fine

Edition: First Edition.

About this title

Synopsis:

Set in Oxford in the 1660s - a time and place of great intellectual, religious, scientific and political ferment - this remarkable novel centres around a young woman, Sarah Blundy, who stands accused of the murder of Robert Grove, a fellow of New College. Four witnesses describe the events surrounding his death: 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, theologian and master spy; and Anthony Wood, the famous Oxford antiquary. Each one tells their version of what happened but only one reveals the extraordinary truth. Brilliantly written, utterly convincing, gripping from the first page to the last, An Instance of the Fingerpost is a magnificent tour de force.

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.

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