Tuesday, May 6, 2014

An Instance of the Fingerpost

by Iain Pears

In the end this was a pretty good historical mystery, but it was a challenge to get there. An Instance of the Fingerpost  is a recounting of a murder told from four different perspectives. In Oxford, 1663, Dr. Grove is found dead from what looks like poisoning, but did the person convicted really commit the crime? To get to the bottom of this crime, readers are presented with four different character testimonies, each of which has a unique perspective on the events preceding the murder. This aspect of the book is intriguing, showing how people who participate in or witness the same event can end up with such contrasting impressions.
Pears does a great job distinguishing the contradictory points of view and providing distinctive voices for each of the testimonies. And each of them brings in a specific aspect of the time period and culture in keeping with their own prejudices and stations in life. While this is interesting, it also provides some challenges in reading, which part way through became confusing and tedious.
I thought the first and last character statements were far better and easier to read than the middle two.  Those guys went off on political and religious tangents that distracted from the story. I even thought it may have helped me to take some notes along the way just to keep track of all the people and their relationships to the characters (there are a LOT of them). For me it kinda got overwhelming.  However, if you are an Anglophile you'd probably love those sections. Either way this book is not a fast read.

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