An Instance of the Fingerpost
Back Cover: "It is 1663 and England is wracked with intrigue and civil strife. When an Oxford don is murdered, it seems at first that the incident can have nothing to do with great matters of church and state. Who poured the arsenic into the victim's brandy? The evidence points to Sarah Blundy, a servant girl...She confesses to the crime and is sentenced to be hanged."
An Instance of the Fingerpost is a standalone novel by Iain Pears, author of the Flavia di Stefano Mystery Series. I was introduced to Pears books a couple years back when was asked to review Stone's Fall. I enjoyed it and have since acquired several of his Stefano mysteries, plus this book. I finally decided to dive in and read it for Fall Reading Challenge.
It is an intriguing historical fiction novel, a bit long winded at 752 pages, but it's that long for a reason. The story takes place in 1663 in Oxford, England and is told in 4 different stages, each stage narrated by a different man in first person point of view. Each man different as well as arrogant and attempting to tell the story their way. You are never quite sure whose telling the truth. First there is Marco da Cola, a young Italian doctor, then Jack Prestcott, who doesn't believe his father is a traitor and is trying to clear his name, mathematician Dr. John Wallis. Lastly Anthony Wood, an antiquarian - student of history. The story is full of history, archaic medical theories, religious persecution, political intrigue and deceit. It's quite convoluted and complex and not an easy read, but it will capture your interest detailing 1600's science and medical practices and the politics of the age.
Publisher: Berkley Books
Released: March 1, 1999
Source: Personal Copy
"When in a search of any nature the understand stands suspended, then instances of the fingerpost shew the true and inviolable way in which the question is to be decided. These instances afford great light, so that the course of the investigation will sometimes be terminated by them. Sometimes, indeed, these instances are found amongst that evidence already set down."
--- Francis Bacon, Novum Organum Scientarum