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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Masterly machinations
`The church of St Germain des Pres, at the start of what was supposed to be spring, was a miserable place, made worse by the drabness of a city still in a state of shock, worse still by the little coffin in front of the altar which was my reason for being there, worse again by the aches and pains of my body as I kneeled'.

The novel starts in 1953 and then has...
Published on 18 Aug. 2009 by Purpleheart

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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stone's Fall
This evokes memories of Wilkie Collins (insanity and opium) and Daphne Du Maurier's "Don't Look Now" (hints of the supernatural in decaying Venice) although I have to say that both of these authors "did it better". The apparently well-researched and intricate plot contains many sinuous twists with some melodramatic scenes which sit rather oddly between rather dry...
Published on 27 Jun. 2010 by Antenna


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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Masterly machinations, 18 Aug. 2009
By 
Purpleheart (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Stone's Fall (Hardcover)
`The church of St Germain des Pres, at the start of what was supposed to be spring, was a miserable place, made worse by the drabness of a city still in a state of shock, worse still by the little coffin in front of the altar which was my reason for being there, worse again by the aches and pains of my body as I kneeled'.

The novel starts in 1953 and then has three separate but intertwining narratives in reverse chronological order - headed London 1909, Paris 1890 and Venice 1867. Each has its own narrator - the first is the most conventional and probably the weakest. The second is fascinating and where Pears really excels himself, the third section gives resolution.

It's an incredibly well plotted novel, I was gripped by the story from the start and the twists and turns are rooted in what we have learnt about the characters rather than being mere plot devices. It is only at the end of the third part that all becomes clear and is resolved with a final twist- if a little too neatly for this reader.

Pears has great fun with the financial and business strands within the novel - which examines the increasing power of finance and capital markets and how `the flow of capital and the generation of profit depends upon confidence. The belief that the word of a London banker is his bond'. He is obviously drawing parallels with our own time and greedy bankers and how disaster can loom when confidence is lost in credit markets. Pears is able to build suspense over these financial machinations, a new type of espionage, a fascinating lady and the fall of an immensely wealthy and quietly powerful magnate - 596 pages flew by.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An impressive novel, 9 Oct. 2010
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This review is from: Stone's Fall (Kindle Edition)
I read An Instance Of The Fingerpost a few years back and thought that book so excellent that I could not see how Iain Pears could ever better it. In an intricate plot, four narratives essentially told the same story, but with hardly any overlap, and in one, the "fingerpost", we found out what really happened, and from someone who barely appeared in the other accounts.

The current novel uses three layers of narrative to explain the life and death of John Stone, a capitalist who runs an impressive empire of companies with one aim: the manufacture of battleships. After a brief introduction, the story opens in 1909 just after Stone's death, when a journalist, Broddick, is asked by Stone's widow to investigate a clause in his will which is holding up its execution.

The journalist digs deep and uncovers what appears to be an enormous fraud in the affairs of Stone's empire. There is also a mysterious secret agent, Cort, involved in some way but Broddick never gets to the bottom of what really happened until, on Stone's widow's death, he comes into possession of Cort's memoirs. These form the basis of the second narrative. This completely turns upside down the impression Broddick had formed of Stone's widow in part one: she was not quite what she had seemed to be. The second account covers a period before and around the marriage of Stone and encompasses the first fall of Barings Bank.

In the final part, we read Stone's own account of his affairs. I will not give anything away when I say that we are going to have our conceptions widened once again by this account.

Iain is a master of this many-layered type of narrative and in a long but leisurely book we see many ways in which how we view someone is affected profoundly by how much we know about them. Each successive layer makes us re-examine what prejudices we formed about the characters in the novel and re-interpret their later actions.

Highly recommended.
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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite book of 2009!, 24 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Stone's Fall (Hardcover)
Let me start by saying that this is my favourite book of 2009 so far - I was completely unprepared for how much I would love this book.

The premise is quite simple: Why did John Stone die, falling out of a window at his London home? The story is a complex mystery, beginning in London in 1909 and gradually revealing the truth by going back in time - first to Paris in 1890, and finally to Venice in 1867.

The book is cleverly constructed so that in the first section John Stone has just died and all the information about him is vague and contradictory. In the second section he becomes a character, so we begin to build a better picture of him and in the final section he is the narrator, so we finally find out the truth about his fascinating life.

"I did not want power or wealth for themselves, and did not in the slightest desire fame. But I wanted, on my death, to be able to expire feeling that my existence had made the world a different place."

This is a literary mystery, so the pace is quite slow and at nearly 600 pages it isn't a quick read, but the length was necessary to create the vivid world and fully formed characters. The astonishing twists were reminiscent of Fingersmith and I am sure I will remember this book for a very long time.

The espionage and financial aspects of the book meant that I thought it would appeal to men more than women, but while I think this is probably true, I am a woman and it is my book of the year! I admit that there were a few sections where the financial implications of events went over my head, but I was quickly brought back to the gripping plot by another development.

This book has everything - a multi-layered complex plot, fantastic characters and a compelling mystery.

Highly recommended to lovers of suspenseful literary fiction.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intelligent read that is highly recommended, 28 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Stone's Fall (Paperback)
Reading this book was like eating an extremely good roast dinner made with the finest quality ingredients: standard fare, given the very best of treatments that make it rise well above the mundane and predictable.

I knew that I was going to enjoy it when, within the first twenty pages, we were given not one but two mysteries to solve. The first mystery is that of Elizabeth, the second, that of her husband, John Stone. Against an original backdrop of late nineteenth century banking and industry, we discover that both Elizabeth and John Stone are very interesting people indeed.

Iain Pears does great honour to his readers by providing fascinating and meticulous historical detail, which means that the book informs as well as entertains and this was a big plus for me - so many writers of historical fiction fall short at this point. I had some reservations about the dialogue - too modern perhaps? - but when entranced by such a good story, it hardly seemed to matter. In conclusion, an intelligent read that is highly recommended.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A veritable literary feast, 17 Jun. 2009
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This review is from: Stone's Fall (Hardcover)
I expected great things from this novel and I was not at all disappointed. This book offered a marvellous portrayal of the development of Victorian industry and the evolution of espionage techniques, with an insight into international banking mechanisms. Yet despite all this potential worthiness the novel also manages to race along at a cracking pace.
Though rather different in style to "The Dream of Scipio" (Pears's vastly under-rated masterpiece) this did match its predecessor's feel for history, with three different narratives each stamping their individual authority on the reader's attention. Though a lengthy tome, weighing in at about six hundred small font pages, there is none of the feeling of long-windedness that occasionally burdened "An Instance of the Fingerpost".
"Stone's Fall" was the sixtieth book I have read this year, and I think it is possibly the finest so far (with the possible exception of Jospeh O'Neill's marvellous "Netherland")
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stone's Fall, 27 Jun. 2010
By 
Antenna (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Stone's Fall (Paperback)
This evokes memories of Wilkie Collins (insanity and opium) and Daphne Du Maurier's "Don't Look Now" (hints of the supernatural in decaying Venice) although I have to say that both of these authors "did it better". The apparently well-researched and intricate plot contains many sinuous twists with some melodramatic scenes which sit rather oddly between rather dry explanations of the role of the banking system in the survival of late C19 societies - quite prescient since the book was first published in 2008! The structure is also unusual: three separate sections, successively set further back in time, with a different narrator and location, but serving to fill in further gaps to explain the life and death of the financier John Stone. This "back-to-front" approach inevitably saps some of the potential tension and suspense.

Although I understand why this book has been so highly praised, it does not work for me. This is not because many of the characters are not very likeable, and tend to be snobbish, class-conscious and anti-semitic - this is all part of the period covered. One reservation is that the large number of characters paraded before us tend to merge together - it is hard to relate to most of them, and to identify and recall the significant "clues" they may drop. Too much of the tale is reported via these characters, often in implausibly fluent speech. This brings me to the point that, despite their ( I think we are meant to find) very different personalities, the three narrators all use the same "voice": a very articulate, rather cynical, for the most part bloodlessly objective, tone - the author's? And although I think I was meant to be captivated by Stone's wife Elizabeth, I found both her and Louise Cort to be thoroughly unconvincing. Whenever the plot takes a romantic turn, the at other times erudite writing becomes squirmingly Mills and Boonish. Although the plot does hang together, the "denouement" at the end of Part 1 is a bit rushed and confusing (all that stuff about Bob, I mean Jan the Builder). In general, every section seems to have a long, slow, wordy build up to an unduly compressed finale.

I think it would have benefited from a ruthless pruning and editing. Perhaps the huge success of earlier work places the author above the requirement to do this.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, 22 Dec. 2010
This review is from: Stone's Fall (Paperback)
I borrowed this book from someone at work but only managed to read the first part (the book is in three distinct parts) before having to move and give him his copy back. So I just had to buy it to see what happened at the end. To be honest I wouldn't normally buy this type of book but found it so good that I've bought another of his books to read after.

Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Heavy going, 5 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: Stone's Fall (Paperback)
There is a decent story in this novel, which I realised when I eventually got to the end. The principal flaw is its length and then there are the digressions. There is a problem too with characterization: the novel is in three parts, narrated by three different characters, though they all feel and think exactly the same, just parked in different situations. The first part made me think of H G Wells Mr Polly, the little man plucked from obscurity, who [second part] becomes a secret agent, before he ends up in a gondola with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. The most mysterious member of the cast - Stone's wife - isn't allowed to speak for herself at all. I suspect the sharper reader will work out the ending well before the final pages.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pears is a class act, but this isn't his best, 29 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: Stone's Fall (Paperback)
I came to this novel having read Ian Pears' earlier book, 'An Instance of the Fingerpost' - and as a result I came to it with high expectations. In many ways I wasn't disappointed: this novel has many of the hallmarks of his earlier work. Both are mystery stories which also concern themselves with the greater mysteries of the human heart, and both allow the author to manipulate narrative viewpoints and timescales, in order to weave a complex and engrossing tale. Both are set in a thoroughly-realised historical past: 'Fingerpost' in 17th-century Oxford, 'Stone's Fall' in the more familiar environment of late-19th-century Europe. Both are beautifully written - I suspect Ian Pears couldn't write a bad sentence if he tried.

And 'Stone's Fall' has all the makings of an excellent novel. Its opening - with a mysterious death, a grieving young widow, and a journalist sent to uncover a story he doesn't entirely understand - may sound like standard mystery fare but Pears has the skill to make it fresh. And he soon begins to draw the reader into less well-known territory, where the worlds of international banking and espionage meet.

And yet if I were to recommend an Ian Pears novel, it wouldn't be this one. It would be 'An Instance of the Fingerpost'. Perhaps because I came to that novel without the weight of expectation, and was astonished at how good it was. Perhaps because, having read 'Fingerpost', I could guess where Pears might spring his narrative ambush, and this time I was ready for him. (The ending of 'Stone's Fall' wasn't as much of a surprise to this reader as it might have been.)

Or perhaps it's something else, which I'm still struggling to pin down. When I reached the end of 'Stone's Fall', I was impressed. When I reached the end of 'Fingerpost', I found myself unexpectly in tears.

'Stone's Fall' solves its central mystery; 'Fingerpost' does too, but leaves another mystery entirely in the hands of the reader, and was - for me at least - a better and more satisfying read because of it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing love story, 11 April 2011
This review is from: Stone's Fall (Paperback)
Iain Pears presents autobiographical extracts from the lives of three men, Matthew Braddock, Henry Cort and John Stone, linked over time by their involvement with one woman, Elizabeth. The first of the lives is that of Matthew Braddock, journalist, who Elizabeth employs to investigate an unexpected clause in the will of her late husband, John Stone. The investigation begins to reveal the lives of Stone and Elizabeth over the preceding fifty years and introduces, by name at least, the third of our lives, that of Henry Cort.
Henry Cort is our second story teller, and his tale explains how he became entwined with the lives of John and Elizabeth. Lastly, we have John Stone himself adding yet more to the chronology and mystery of his intriguing life.

Pears chooses not to simply present three different perspectives on the same period in time, but writes three complimentary stories which, when put together, give us a tantalising if incomplete fourth biography, that of Elizabeth. Each life story could stand alone, but Pears skillfully hands us a succession of jigsaw pieces, revealing a little more each time but never quite allowing us to see the big picture until the last piece is in place.

Cleverly constructed, it was not until the end that I fully appreciated just what Pears was doing. The first part concerning Matthew Braddock was an excellent story in itself and, when I got into part two, Henry Cort's tale, I found myself wondering just what was going on as there seemed to be no continuity. I'm glad I kept going however because the final enlightenment was so worthwhile.

Perhaps a little overlong would be my only criticism, but a small one for such a rewarding book.
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Stone's Fall
Stone's Fall by Iain Pears (Paperback - 3 Jun. 2010)
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