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Stone's Fallby Iain Pears
Synopses & Reviews
A return to the form that launched Iain Pears onto bestseller lists around the world: a vast historical mystery, marvelous in its ambition and ingenius in its complexity.
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.
"British author Pears matches the brilliance of his bestselling An Instance of the Fingerpost (1998) with this intricate historical novel, which centers on the death of a wealthy financier. In part one, after John Stone falls to his death from a window in his London mansion in 1909, Stone's seductive, much younger widow, Elizabeth, hires Matthew Braddock, who works as a journalist, to trace a child of her late husband's she never knew existed until the child is named in his will. Braddock, a novice in the world of finance, uncovers evidence that Stone's actual net worth was far less than commonly believed, even as he finds himself falling for his client. In part two, set in 1890 Paris, Henry Cort, a shadowy spy, provides another perspective on the bewitching Elizabeth. Stone's own reminiscences from his time in Venice in 1867 cast further light on the circumstances of his demise. The pages will fly by for most readers, who will lose themselves in the clear prose and compelling plot. " Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Admirers of Iain Pears' "An Instance of the Fingerpost" have waited more than 10 years for another lengthy, serpentine thriller bearing the stamp of his erudition in matters historical, artistic and financial. "Stone's Fall" generously rewards their patience. A marvel of skillful agglomeration, the novel propels us backward in time to illuminate one man's rise and fall. The trajectory may be familiar,... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) even predictable, but this particular tragedy encompasses the entire history of late mid-19th- to early-20th-century capitalism and provides enough romance and intrigue to fuel a dozen operas. It all begins in London in 1909, when Matthew Braddock, a young reporter, accepts a private assignment from a beautiful widow, Elizabeth. John Stone, one of the world's richest financiers and arms dealers, has died in a mysterious defenestration and bequeathed money to a child of whom Elizabeth knew nothing. Braddock, posing as Stone's biographer, must find the child. That quest leads him to Britain's financial core, to shipyards, battleships, anarchists, morphine, illicit passion, even to an attempted royal assassination. The novel's second section opens with a letter to Braddock from Henry Cort, a shadowy Stone associate. Cort, our new narrator, takes us back to Paris in 1890, where, as an apprentice spy for England, he learns that "the safety of the greatest empire the world had ever known depended on a bunch of friends and acquaintances, crooks and misfits." From a French banker, Cort gains a more vital insight about the emerging new order: "All the world is now convertible to money. Power, influence, peace and war ... depend on the convertibility of your currency, its reputation among the bankers." The section ends with Cort attempting to save the Bank of England from ruin, but not before he has recruited both a key female agent/courtesan whose admirers include the Prince of Wales and John Stone. Stone himself narrates the novel's final section, which describes a fateful sojourn in Venice in 1867 when his career and character are formed — at a cost that becomes apparent only years later. His story reveals a shocking pattern underlying the novel's myriad dramas. Pears is an exuberant writer who cannot resist a digression whether describing an incidental character or the invention of the torpedo. But his narrative chatter — charming or trying, depending on your mood — somewhat diminishes the major characters, whose individual voices are often lost in the general din. Only Elizabeth, Pears' most resourceful heroine and finest creation, remains utterly distinct. But that, perhaps, is Pears' point. Reviewed by Anna Mundow, who is a literary columnist for the Boston Globe and a contributor to the Irish Times, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Mr. Pears's assured command of period history, language, lore, and attitudes is formidable." The Wall Street Journal
"Certainly, one of the best historical mysteries of the last several years." Booklist (starred review)
"A learned, witty and splendidly entertaining descent into the demimondes of international espionage, arms dealing, financial hanky-panky and other favorite pastimes of those without conscience." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Stone's Fall is recommended to those who like to weigh down their beach towel with something extra-large, classy on the outside and just a little trashy within." Newsday
"A marvel of skillful agglomeration, the novel propels us backward in time to illuminate one man's rise and fall....Pears is an exuberant writer who cannot resist a digression whether describing an incidental character or the invention of the torpedo." The Washington Post
"This latest from Pears is in the best sense of the word an old-fashioned novel, populated with vital characters and bursting at the seams with narrative vigor. Highly recommended." Library Journal (starred review)
About the Author
Iain Pears is the author of the New York Times bestseller An Instance of the Fingerpost. He lives in Oxford, England.
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