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Stone's Fall Paperback – 3 Jun 2010
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Stone’s Fall is another novel to add lustre to a career that has had few missteps – and it is a book that shows no signs the author’s skill is waning. Iain Pears’ writing won’t be to everyone’s taste, but isn't that true of anything of quality? This is historical crime of an intelligent order, with a wide, time-spanning canvas that moves from London in the Edwardian era to Paris and Venice.
In 1909, a rich manufacturer of weapons has purloined the concept of the torpedo from another man, one of the reasons for his fabulous wealth. But he falls to his death from a window, and his widow, the Countess Elizabeth, commissions a journalist to investigate her late husband’s life and death – with the mystifying will he left as the fulcrum. As the journalist, Braddock, digs deeper, he uncovers very little -- and fifty year pass before a remarkable revelation comes his way.
A glance at Iain Pears’ earlier novels such as An Instance of the Fingerpost and The Portrait reveals the customary impeccable craftsmanship, on display once again in the new book. With his admirable skill at matching clever plotting with strikingly drawn characters, Pears is clearly a different commodity from his contemporaries (a conclusion also demonstrated by the beguiling The Dream of Scipio, set in Provence at three key points of Western civilisation). What is most encouraging about the critical and (to some degree) the commercial success of Iain Pears’ books is the encouraging signal it sends about readers’ willingness to engage with fiction that demands more than just easy acquiescence. A novel such as Stone’s Fall will not reveal its secrets to you without a certain commitment – which is why the author is something special in a dumbed-down, Big Brother-watching world. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"I cannot remember enjoying a book as much as Stone's Fall" (Malcolm Gladwell Observer)
"The assurance and invention with which the novel is written are alike remarkable. Utterly absorbing and a rare delight" (Alan Massie Scotsman)
"Engrossing and intelligent, it's the best sort of page-turner" (Amber Pearson Daily Mail)
"A juicy mystery with lashings of period detail" (Daily Telegraph)
"The novel is above all a romp, albeit an exceptionally intelligent and entertaining one" (David Robson Sunday Telegraph)
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Told in three parts, all first person narratives, this is a leisurely and detailed tale that reminded me of the Victorian three-volume novels it seems to recall, especially Trollope's political/financial novels.
The first part, told by Braddock, is set in a London heaving with journalists, anarchists, bankers and industrialists, overshadowed by possible war in Europe.
The second is told by Henry Cort, banker and fledgling government spy, and is set in 1880-90s Paris, a world of courtesans, salons, and the jostling for political allies.
The third is told by Stone himself, set in 1860s Venice, and unravels the secrets already set up in the other narratives.
I did enjoy reading this book but though it is very well written and crafted, I couldn't help but find the end anti-climactic and so a bit unsatisfying. All three narratives are written in exactly the same `voice' and the last one is a little neat and pat as characters who've appeared in previous stories turn into other people as their true selves are revealed. The big secret was also one which I didn't feel was that well hidden (or maybe it's just an overused device in sensational novels?).
Certainly the financial plot is well done and very gripping, but I'm not completely sure that it melded that well with the `love' plot. So overall an undoubtedly enjoyable read but I guess I found this ultimately a little emotionally hollow, well-crafted but with nothing significant to say - an up-market and literate pot-boiler of a story but certainly not one that will either linger in my mind or that I'd read again.
The main problem is the length - there are endless pages of exposition that should have been cut. But the characters are also an issue - they're two dimensional. And it lacks the intellectual stimulus of the earlier books.
I'm astonished at the rave reviews it's getting. Because of them I persevered but am getting nothing out of it so have decided enough is enough.
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