An Instance of the Fingerpost
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A national bestseller and one of the New York Public Library's Books to Remember, An Instance of the Fingerpost is a thrilling historical mystery from Iain Pears.
"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....Yet, little is as it seems in this gripping novel, which dramatizes the ways in which witnesses can see the same events yet remember them falsely. Each of four narrators—a Venetian medical student, a young man intent on proving his late father innocent of treason, a cryptographer, and an archivist—fingers a different culprit...an erudite and entertaining tour de force." —People
Iain Pears's The Dream of Scipio and The Portrait are also available from Riverhead Books.
to restore himself to the dignified posture that his trade required. His comrade did likewise and both turned to look at me; a somber silence reigned for a few seconds, then the younger man pointed at me, and both of them lost control once more. “Twenty marks!” cried the young man, waving in my direction, then banging his fist on the counter. “At least twenty.” I counted this as being the nearest thing to an introduction that I was likely to receive and, with some wariness, made a polite bow in
window, but this amazement turned to disgust as I perceived the shocking meanness of life in such a place. I am not (as must be clear by now) much of a bookman, but there is a line in a poem which I was forced to construe by Dr. Grove in my youth, which has stuck with me. I do not recall the poet, but he was obviously a wise and sober man, for he said, “I cannot live in the city, for I have not learned to lie.” So it always will be; the honesty of the country man is at a disadvantage in the town,
for the professorship of geometry at the University of Oxford? Had I been truly ambitious, I would have aimed at a bishopric at the very least. And do not imagine I could not have had it: it was not my aim. I have not been governed by selfish ambition and have studied more to be serviceable than great. I endeavored at all times to act by moderate principles in compliance with the powers in being. Since my earliest days when I discovered the secret patterns of mathematics and dedicated myself to
noxious elements leave the blood in the lungs, are sucked out by passage through the tissue, as through a sieve, and are then exhaled. The lighter blood is purified substance. We know, after all, that the breath often smells.” “And did you weigh the two cups of blood to see if they had changed weight?” Boyle asked. I flushed slightly, as the thought had never even occurred to me. “Clearly this would be a next step,” Boyle said. “It may be, of course, a waste of time, but it might be an avenue
floor?” The whirlwind which hit me then was one of the greatest shocks in my life. Suddenly transformed from submission, the true features of the girl were suddenly revealed as, snarling with hatred and frustration, she lunged at me, tearing at my face with her nails, eyes wild with madness. Fortunately the chains around her wrist and ankle restrained her, or I swear she would have had my eyes out. As it was I fell backward onto a foul-smelling old woman who instantly reached inside my coat for