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Stone's Fall: A Novel by Iain Pears

Stone's Fall: A Novel (edition 2009)

by Iain Pears

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1,057607,948 (3.79)95
Title:Stone's Fall: A Novel
Authors:Iain Pears
Info:Spiegel & Grau (2009), Hardcover, 608 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Historical Fiction

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Stone's Fall by Iain Pears


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English (55)  Dutch (4)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (60)
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
Hot damn. Stone's Fall is another wonderfully baroque, things-are-not-what-they-seem, historical mystery from master storyteller Iain Pears. Be warned: It's a tad slow until the second section (200 pages in or so), and then Pears hits his stride. Don't give up until you get to the second narrator, Henry Cort.

This isn't quite the same jaw-dropping brilliance of An Instance of the Fingerpost but it has the same elaborate masonry and bones of that complex book. Pears is a seriously underrated author. This book is worth reading alone for how he turns financial chicanery and intrigue in the banking world into something so meaty and exciting. Well-researched. Pears isn't a master prose stylist or anything and his sentences won't stop you mid-read to make you marvel at their lovely figures, but none of that matters because the story—the story is king!—just envelops you. ( )
  gendeg | Jan 26, 2015 |
Good, but not great ... dragged in a few places. But it was suspenseful and well written, kept my interest throughout. ( )
  VictoriaNH | Nov 16, 2014 |
This is a tough one to review (even in brief) and choose how many stars. The beginning was great and I was very quickly pulled into the characters and the mystery. Then the style changed and it turned almost into an epistolary form with the murdered victim from the beginning mystery going on and on and on and on about his life. I hung in until the beginning though and it was jaw dropping.

Not worth the what felt like millions of hours of over-detailed boredom that was the middle. ( )
  ChewDigest | Sep 12, 2014 |
Highly entertaining and wonderful writing. ( )
  KRoan | Jul 25, 2014 |
This book was not as intricate as A instance of the fingerpost or The dream of Scipio, but much more so than The Portrait. Stone’s fall narrates successive portions of a historical mystery in reverse order: it starts off with a journalist investigating a mysterious suicide in the early 1910s; moves on to an espionage-slash-financial-crisis in a filthy late-19thC Paris; and ends with an invention of military significance in sleepy mid-19thC Venice. Running in the background are two red threads. On the one hand the three parts shed their successive lights on an international diplomatic emergency that largely plays out behind the scenes; and on the other hand there is the reverse biography of John William Stone, an unimaginably wealthy banker and arms dealer, who does not come into clear focus until the final third. Towards the end, Pears’ plotting stretches credulity a bit, but the rest is a fascinating adventure story that has him juggling genres admirably: crime fiction, spy thriller and a Venetian mystery that feels very du-maurier-meets-engineering.

I found the choice of period engaging in that they are a suitably underused background for a setting hardly anyone has written novels about (to my knowledge): a fledgling British secret service and the world of international banking and finance. So that was interesting. The charm of these periods and locales lies in that they are emphatically not used as ancillaries to famous historical events (such as a looming WWI, the Parisian Universal Expositions, or the Unification of Italy), but their role as backdrop to an original story -- that the time and place the story is set in are about much more than the Big Events we already know about.

A similar point can be made on a character-level: each part of the general story arc is told as its own separate adventure, and while Pears does indulge a bit in characters and subplots that are not necessarily of direct relevance to the two main storylines, this helps enormously in bringing out the individual time periods as settings independent of whatever larger plan he has on the boil in the background.

The plot itself would be rather unremarkable if told chronologically -- but then Stone’s Fall would have to start resembling a fictional biography, and it is precisely the mystery angle, the sense of unravelling earlier episodes that cast an entirely new light on the later ones, that is the most appealing facet of this book.

In short, I thought this a well-handled, confidently executed historical mystery that uses its unfamiliar settings to great effect. ( )
  Petroglyph | Jul 24, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
“Stone’s Fall,” ... gives the reader the expected more-than-500 pages and also what is not expected at all: a female character who might have stepped out of Balzac, along with a view of the belle époque that is neither anachronistic nor censorious. .... In the last third, Pears finds himself somewhat in the situation of the clumsy home improver who, deciding to decorate his front room, finds he has painted himself into a corner.
Admirers of Iain Pears's "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.
This sprawling, unconventional, occasionally dazzling novel ends with an unconvincing and unnecessary denouement which serves only to undermine the foundations of the elaborate edifice he has worked so painstakingly to create.
added by geoffmiles | editGuardian, Clare Clark (May 9, 2009)
The assurance and invention with which this novel is written are alike remarkable. Pears manages his complicated structure with a confidence and dexterity possible only to a master of the craft of fiction. ... Better, more profound novels may be published this year, but I shall be surprised if there is one that offers more complete enjoyment.

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Iain Pearsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Relph, LiamCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stevens, LucindaAuthor Photographsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my mother
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Paris, March 1953
The Church of St.-Germain des Prés, at the start of what was supposed to be spring, was a miserable place, made worse by the drabness of a city still in a state of shock, worse still by the little coffin in front of the altar which was my reason for being there, worse again by the aches and pains of my body as I kneeled.
'Conscious of my failings in so many matters, and wishing to make amends for past ills, I direct that the sum of £250,000 be left to my child, whom I have never previously acknowledged.'
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385522843, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:08 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

In this dazzling historical mystery, John Stone, financier and arms dealer, dies falling out of a window at his London home. The quest to uncover the truth behind his death plays out against the backdrop of high-stakes international finance, Europe's first great age of espionage, and the start of the twentieth century's arms race.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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