by Ian Pear

An Instance of the Fingerpost

What’s especially cool about this book is that it’s told from four perspectives, and there is no single omniscient narrator who is always telling you the objective truth.

The story centers around a murder that takes place in England in 1663. But each narrator has a different recollection of the events surrounding the incident, and they each assume a different guilty party.

The New York Times compared it to The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. I agree. It’s got the same tension.

The title relates to Francis Bacon’s system of logic that says the essence of something is the process of reduction. The fingerpost refers to the sign at a crossroads: a post with arms or “fingers” radiating from it that point you in the direction to the various places listed. The idea is that to find the truth, you must first find where the stories of the four narrators intersect.

There’s a handy list in the back of all the characters, detailing which ones were real people in history (lot’s of them) and which are fictional—and there are notes that clarify when a character is fictional but inspired by someone real, giving you the story and identity of the person the character was based on.

It’s a little long, but completely fascinating. Absolutely worth reading.