July 2024
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Review: Stone’s Fall, Iain Pears

Stealing the back cover description this time because this is so complex:

In his most dazzling novel since the groundbreaking New York Times bestseller An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears tells the story of John Stone, financier and arms dealer, a man so wealthy that in the years before World War One he was able to manipulate markets, industries, and indeed entire countries and continents.

A panoramic novel with a riveting mystery at its heart, Stone’s Fall is a quest to discover how and why John Stone dies, falling out of a window at his London home.  Chronologically, it moves backwards–from London in 1909 to Paris in 1890, and finally to Venice in 1867– and in the process the quest to uncover the truth plays out against the backdrop of the evolution of high-stakes international finance, Europe’s first great age of espionage, and the start of the twentieth century’s arms race.

Like Fingerpost, Stone’s Fall is an intricately plotted and richly satisfying puzzle–an erudite work of history and fiction that feels utterly true and oddly timely–and marks the triumphant return of one of the world’s great storytellers.

I had an interesting time with Stone’s Fall.  I read most of it in a couple of days, then set aside the last 200 pages to be read several weeks later.  I didn’t do it on purpose, I just didn’t feel like lugging such a huge book on a plane with me.  It’s worth noting that I wasn’t particularly compelled to pick it up again, especially as I’d forgotten most of what happened, but I enjoyed the end when I got to it.

Since it’s set in three time periods, it takes a bit of patience to see where this book is going.  At first, everything seems clear.  John Stone and his wife Elizabeth are fairly ordinary as millionaires go; it’s only when Stone falls out a window and Elizabeth invites reporter Matthew Braddock into their home that things get interesting.  Stone has insisted that they find an illegitimate child of his before the will can be settled, but no one can find this child.  And so this twisting mystery begins with a search, but widens into something much more.

Despite its massive length, Stone’s Fall needed every word to pull off its twisting plot.  Even though the story goes back in time, we have no idea what the outcome in the present time is until the full story is told, and that outcome is extremely unexpected.  I can’t imagine anyone guessing the result of this mystery and it’s all the better for it; I like a little unpredictability in my reading.  It’s hard to get attached to the characters, especially as we’re treated to details of their sordid pasts, but they are complex and well-developed in all stages of their lives.  I thought the best character was the man who represented Venice in the book’s last segment.  The city is a character, so it makes perfect sense for it to be manifested as a human being.  This was a nice touch.

If you like long, involved mysteries, I would recommend Stone’s Fall to you.  It would be a great read for anyone else, too, but I do have to suggest not putting it down once you get involved!  It’s hard to pick up the pieces in such a convoluted plot, at least not until it starts to make sense towards the end.  I am still looking forward to An Instance of the Fingerpost by this author, which is sitting on my TBR pile staring at me.


13 comments to Review: Stone’s Fall, Iain Pears

  • I LOVED ‘Instance of the Fingerpost’ and this one also looks interesting. Thanks for the review!

  • The only thing I’ve read by Iain Pears is the “The Raphael Affair”. I plan to continue with that series eventually, but this looks really interesting!


  • This sounds like a good one to read this winter when the days are shorter and there’s not that much to do. Great review.

  • I have this one . . . (hanging head in shame that I haven’t read it yet)

  • I do really like long and involved mysteries, I confess, and this one sounds interesting. I haven’t read anything by this author, but I’ve seen his name pop up a lot lately. I’ll have to look into trying one of his books. Thanks for the great review, Meghan!

  • i have seen this one in the library and it dos sound interesting. But never picked it up, really should give it a try

  • This sounds really interesting – I like complex plots. I especially like mysteries that I can’t figure out. Sounds like I should find myself a copy of this book!

  • I loved this book, while not thinking that it was quite as clever as ‘An Instance of the Fingerpost’, to which it is inevitably being compared. I agree completely that you should try and read it straight through and I too failed to see where the end was going, even though, when you get there the immediate reaction is “Oh Yes!”

  • I’ve read several of Pear’s art history mystery series, but none of his stand-alone novels. The art history ones are pretty well-written and entertaining, so I know he’s a good writer. I might keep this one in mind for the winter when I know I’m going to have some large blocks of time to read. :)

  • I have a copy of An Instance of the Fingerpost, but haven’t yet read it. I have been curious about this book, and have been waiting to see some reviews. This is the first I have seen, and I am glad that you found it interesting. I am thinking about taking a closer look at this book. Thanks for the great review!

  • I have had this on my TBR pile for a while but your review has just persuaded me to buy a copy – thank you!

  • This definitely sounds interesting. I have this one on my shelf and it’s good to know that it’s worth reading!

  • I thought the ending to this book was fantastic! It is my favourite book of the year so far. I think a break in reading may have caused you to forget some hings, meaning it wasn’t as good as it could have been. I’m pleased that you still managed to enjoy it though.

    I see it was you who persuded me to get a copy though – so thank you!
    .-= Jackie (Farm Lane Books)´s last blog ..Stone’s Fall – Iain Pears =-.