An Instance of the Fingerpost
By Iain Pears
Why this book?
Oxford, 1663: a servant girl confesses to a murder and is sentenced to hang. But four witnesses each have a theory about who actually committed the crime. Initially, I took each narrator’s account at face value, but the more pages I turned, the more I questioned the reliability of each testimony. The novel involved me in the investigation, further engaging my imagination. While An Instance of the Fingerpost is set one hundred years after my book, it also demonstrates how intensely religion infused every aspect of society and how religious conviction often shaped academic, medical, and scientific “facts.” How, whether by genuine oversight or intentional deception, unwavering faith leaves innocent victims in its wake. I read Fingerpost as I slogged through my first manuscript. Iain Pears’ skilled combination of rich historical detail, deft characterization, sly humour, theological disputation, stifling orthodoxy, and religious rebellion inspired (and intimidated!) me. A refined and intellectual yet raw and gritty work—qualities I’d hoped my writing might also reflect.
Side note, Iain Pears introduced me to the term “dandy,” a gentleman who is particularly fastidious about his appearance and places tremendous importance on fashion and style. In thanks, a dandy or two make an appearance in my novels.
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