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4.3 out of 5 stars
112
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 8 February 2015
An enjoyable, layered mystery set largely in Restoration Oxford - but somehow the story did not quite work, for me.

The period detail and varied narrative voices are very cleverly done. I am not sure what I found wearisome. Perhaps it was that there were far too many long interior monologues - and the first two narrators, at least, were too self-satisfied and lacking in human sympathy - though I don't doubt the realism of such characters.

The trouble is that I simply didn't care about them enough.

By comparison, The Dream of Scipio by the same author, was more exquisitely modelled and the characters, though no less self-seeking, were more sophisticated and subtler.
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on 4 July 2017
Overall this was a great read. Very unique concept - part murder mystery, part historical fiction and all the while making you wonder which version of events is "true or false". That was thrilling at times. The author has clearly done a load of work researching this. However he also was at pains to show this off with pages and pages and pages of writing that was fine except it just bogged down the pace and achieved very little.

The pacing of the book doesn't work and it feels a relief by the end which is a shame because at times it is a book you can't put down.
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on 22 April 2017
Excellent book.
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on 21 August 2015
GREAT READ. ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT.
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on 1 July 2017
A very clever book and well-researched from a historical perspective. Not a one-day page-turner but thoroughly enjoyable. It kept my interest throughout. Great piece of historical fiction.
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on 24 November 2015
A long and intricate story that is well told and utterly gripping from start to finish. My first Iain Pear's novel, but already looking for the next to read.
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on 19 August 2017
I enjoyed this more than any other book in the last year.

On the surface it's a whodunnit where Four characters describe their version of events, in an engaging and very readable style, drawing you fully into the era and characters it depicts with the religious and political tensions, the language and the mores of the time, all beautifully illustrated. However slowly revealed and woven into this medieval 'Agatha Christie' fabric is something deeper still.

Much of the book could be considered as allegory or even satire for our times. I certainly enjoyed reading it as such. Some may not like the florid style of speech, though it very much appealed to me, as it is intelligently done. Some may baulk at the twist in an already twisty story toward the very end, it certainly raises questions; for me though it was ingenious and plausible.
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on 21 June 2017
What a great ending! The book was very detailed and quite funny at times. It was very interesting historically - referencing lots of real world people and events. At times though, it was a bit complicated, and needed a bit of perseverance/concentration - but the ending was outstanding. The characters really carried the story, seeing the same traits in people 400 years ago as we do today!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 2 December 2011
This is a sustained, detailed and rambling story set in the seventeenth century, after the restoration of the monarchy. Four narratives compete with each other to tell a story involving the murder of an Oxford scholar; the execution of a dissenter, Sarah Blundy; a lost inheritance; and various political plots. Taking in code-breaking, medical research, political machinations, and a helping of sex, this is nicely evocative of the ferment of ideas at this time.

This dropped a star from me because at times the idea of the plot almost fades away completely as each narrative takes on a life of its own, and I have to admit the ending was a disappointment.

So perhaps this isn't a good choice if you're looking for a murder mystery (which is a very small aspect of this book), or like tight, linear plots. This is definitely an example of a book where the journey is far more important than the destination.
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on 29 September 2010
What a feat. What an accomplishment! I've just waded my way through Iain Pears' Instance of the Fingerpost and those sentiments are the only way I can describe the feeling of my having got though it. Many were the times I came close to putting this book on the dusty pile of my literary outcasts (in fact there is only one other - 100 days of solitude - but that's another story) but something kept me reading and the last part of the four stories very much made up for it....thankfully. This is an intricate, layered, heavy and often tedious story. No matter what some of the other readers have alluded to - make no mistake - this is not a light breezy read and you will not (I repeat NOT!) be reading it by torchlight under your bedcovers. But - if you start - don't give up. You may well feel like quietly putting the book in the oxfam pile after the first part; you may feel like throwing the book off a balcony or tearing it up in a frenzy after the second; and the third might help you off to sleep....but the fourth culminates these parts into a wonderful tale and - in addition - the writing and effort that have gone into this book really are exceptional. If you haven't bought this book yet - think wisely before you embark. If you have - keep at it.
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