AN INSTANCE OF THE FINGERPOST by Iain Pears
Pears’ 1998 novel has been described as “Dickensian in breadth and darkness” along with many accolades asserting to its excellence. I can only add that I found it an astoundingly clever piece – a mix of fact and fiction – that left me guessing right to the very last page.
As well as being a brilliant murder mystery, the novel shows us the scientific community of 1663 – from the practise of alchemy to the beginnings of modern chemistry and medicine in all its blood and gore.
When an Oxford don is murdered, the evidence points to a servant girl. Four narrators remember the events surrounding the murder – and each remembers them differently. Which version is the correct one, for we know that memory is a very unreliable witness? The journey to that last page was enthralling and the ending a touch of brilliance.