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Publisher's Summary

Set in Oxford in the 1660s – a time and place of great intellectual, scientific, religious and political ferment – this remarkable novel centres around a young woman, Sarah Blundy, who stands accused of the murder of Robert Grove, a fellow of New College. Four witnesses describe the events surrounding his death: Marco da Cola, a Venetian Catholic intent on claiming credit for the invention of blood transfusion; Jack Prescott, the son of a supposed traitor to the Royalist cause, determined to vindicate his father; John Wallis, chief cryptographer to both Cromwell and Charles 1l a mathematician, theologican and inveterate plotter; and Anthony Wood, the famous Oxford antiquary. Each one tells their version of what happened but only one reveals the extraordinary truth.

©1997 Iain Pears (P)2011 Isis Publishing Ltd

What listeners say about An Instance of the Fingerpost

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Slow Buildup, but worthwhile

The four threads of the story are intertwined and build towards the climatic end. Some parts proceed slowly, and patience may be required. I am stumbled by the names of various who's who during that period, and especially lost momentum during the second narrative. But the buildup for me really started in the third narrative, culminating in the final "a-ha!" In the fourth narrative.

This is well worth the read. The readers are all of top quality.

2 people found this helpful

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A gripping tale!

Though long, the story was told through different voices which is a novel approach. The author holds your attention until the very end and provides a totally expected conclusion. Highly recommended and I will want to listen to more from this author.

2 people found this helpful

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  • A. Smithson
  • 06-13-16

Exceptional storytelling

My mother recommended this book to me for years, and now I see why. The 1660s Oxford setting and smattering of familiar names create a convincing world where the four narrators tell their tales. Layer upon layer of detail, mystery and intrigue build as each account of events helps you put together the 'truth'. Using four readers in the audio recording completes the experience. Well worth my time!

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jane
  • 03-26-13

Strange but quite compelling

This was not what I was expecting at all - although I was mildly disappointed at first, it grew on me! My history is far from good so I do not know if the historical facts were indeed accurate, but as the story progressed there were several twists and turns that I did not see coming - and that does not happen very often!



A good storyline that became more appealing as it progressed - worth reading especially if you want something a little different from the normal murder mystery.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Shaun V. Hewitt
  • 10-20-20

It goes on, and on, and on, and on. And on.

A book of four stories from four men looking at one incident, an interesting idea. I found two of the stories fascinating, one OK and one impenetrable (probably my own fault), but overall, well worth listening to.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Vicuña
  • 01-21-17

Rich in historic detail

Where does An Instance of the Fingerpost rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

A great story, well told, one f my favourite audiobooks.

Who was your favorite character and why?

There's a wealth of characters, all really well depicted.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

Many.

Any additional comments?

This is a long book, but it's fascinating. Strong sense of period with a lot of historic detail. It took a while to finish, but I really enjoyed it.

2 people found this helpful

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  • paul limmer
  • 01-26-16

Nice twists in the story.

Enjoyed the story. Good narration and liked the sneaky twists and turns . . .

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • A. Maclennan
  • 12-23-12

An instance of the fingerpost

There is very rarely an historic novel that grabs. This is mine. From start to finish. All either real or feasible for the time in history and brilliantly narrated. There are some books I love but can't listen to the narrator, this was perfect! I would recommend to anyone because there is something from all the characters that would appeal.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Xen
  • 03-27-18

Starts off well but loses pace

This story is split so that it’s told from a number of characters’ perspectives. While this adds layers and creates interesting twists, I felt it slowed the pace and ended up making the second half of the book quite boring.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Birgit
  • 11-09-12

Really engaging

I read this book over 10 years ago and loved it and decided that it was worth a listen. I wasn't dissappointed. If you like historical fiction and crime thrillers then this is a must-"read". The events are narrated from 4 different characters' points of view, which allows you piece together the big picture by the end. Definitely recommend it and will definitely enjoy a second listen myself.

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-09-13

Clever but untimately unsatisfying

A clever and well written mystery centered on a series of connected events as seen through the very differing persepctives of a handful of eye witnesses. Each of the witnesses turn out to be rather unattractive, self serving liars who whinge constantly and twist the tale to their own ends, at great length. Before long I tired of the narrators and their stories and as a result of the book itself. The solving of the mystery, when it finally arrived, was something of a damp squib at the end of a very long and slow burning fuse.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Jack Adams
  • 07-10-22

Outstanding writing of the finest quality.

I had never heard of the book nor the author but bought the title and have to say it is worth every penny and more. This is a story that is not just set in the mid-17th century but firmly placed within the psyche of the time. I will not speak of the story because others have but of the structure and quality of the storytelling. The richness of the characters as educated individuals at the start of the development of the scientific method is forensic. Each one is supported by a cultural and intellectual knowledge that takes the reader into a different time on a very personal level.

There is an interplay between the theological and secular views of the world which is so well researched that you have to be staggered by the depth of knowledge behind the text. However, where this writing triumphs is with the ease and simplicity with which the story comfortably and effortlessly emerges from those depths. This is truly a work that is accessible to different readers at different levels.

The location of the characters within space and time is masterful. Oxford University is opened up and revealed as the stage on which the argument for a rational science is made and challenges a religious orthodoxy still able to commit heretics to the flames. The sociology of class, the politics of power and the legal framework of both process and punishment are made real within our imaginations. Vivisection, dissection of dead bodies, capital punishment, female inferiority to the male and other contentious ideas are explored with a humour that gets you chuckling.

This is a must have if you love history, culture and science.

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  • Su taylor
  • 03-16-20

This is my fifth time

I've read the book four times and still could not resist listening to it again. Good read and even better performance

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  • Mariner
  • 04-08-16

Interesting historical references

The book is structured as four contemporaneous accounts. With each account you discover a little more of the full story. Brilliantly crafted and full of interesting historical references, solid performances transport the listener. Well-worth persevering despite the length.