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Stone's Fall

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  6,204 ratings  ·  865 reviews
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 he
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Hardcover, 594 pages
Published May 5th 2009 by Spiegel & Grau
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3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,204 ratings  ·  865 reviews


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Laura
Feb 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Well, all you Iain Pears fans can relax -- he's written a terrific book again. (I say this as an Iain Pears fan who had to throw The Dream of Scipio against the wall with great force.)

As in An Instance of the Fingerpost, Pears uses multiple narrators to tell the story of financier John Stone's death after a fall out a window. The multiple narrators, in turn, narrate stories taking place in different eras, each illuminating the mystery at the heart of it all: who killed John Stone, and why? The s
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Lars Jerlach
Dec 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
The central question in Stone’s Fall is fairly simple: How and why did the powerful and extremely wealthy industrialist John Stone fall to his death from an opened window of his London home?
To find the answer to that question, the intriguing but rather slow moving story is told by three different narrators in three separate parts, London 1909, Paris 1890 and Venice 1869, and travels back in time to tell the story backwards, a narrative method I found particularly rewarding.
The three narrators,
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Paul
Dec 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
A quite decent historical thriller with lots of twists and turns, plot devices galore, red herrings, political machinations, high finances, boys own spying adventures, romance, betrayal, industrial espionage, the entente cordiale, naval warfare, anarchism and the evil that people do. It is well written and researched and works backwards; from a funeral in the 1950s, to London in 1909, Paris in 1890 and finally Venice in 1867.
The starting point is the death of a wealthy industrialist and financi
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Jon
Jul 02, 2009 rated it liked it
This is a very long novel (I'd guess nearly 300,000 words), and as the official blurb says, it is ingenious and intricately plotted. But I think it could have been just as ingenious and intricate at about half the length. I was hoping it would be as good as An Instance of the Fingerpost, but I was disappointed. Like that one, it is divided into sections, each with a different narrator; but in this case, the narrators all sound pretty much alike, and none of them is particularly engaging. In fact ...more
Emily
This novel got steadily better as I read it--it's shaped like a Klein bottle. The first section, which takes place in London in 1910, is worth three stars. A journalist is hired by a mysterious wealthy widow to help resolve the will of her husband, John Stone, who died by falling out a window. The will gives a bequest to an unnamed child of Stone's, who must be found before the estate can be settled. The view into Stone's business empire--he owned numerous companies involved in the manufacture o ...more
K
Jan 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Solid four-star read. Really and truly.

I hesitate to use the word Dickensian because I was never a Dickens fan, but that's the word that comes to mind for me and I do mean it in a positive way. A long, twisty narrative full of larger-than-life characters who are intertwined in all sorts of unexpected ways -- I can only compare it to Dickens. But where Dickens wrote like he was paid by the word, this book -- though arguably too long -- never felt tedious. Or usually didn't, anyway. I wasn't alway
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Jane
Dec 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
The central question is simple: How and why did the wealthy and powerful industrialist John Stone come to fall to his death from the window of his London home? The answer is anything but.

First there is a prologue, set in Paris in 1953. Two men meet after a funeral. It is short and simple but it sets the tone beautifully and provides a firm basis that will hold together what is to come.

And then the story travels back in time: to London in 1909, to Paris in 1890 and finally to Venice in 1967.

In 1
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Laura
4.5 stars. I really enjoyed this book, my first by Iain Pears. I love his humor, and that he writes with depth. Don't plan to fly through this one. It takes patience and I found myself having to reread parts, or just wanting to reread to get a better flavor for the story, or to laugh again at a funny line.

I love the way the author decided to tell this story. He starts in the present after a mysterious death has occurred, and then part two goes back in time after a change in narrator. Part three
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Matt Brady
Mar 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england, read-in-2015
Goddammit, this is twice now that Iain Pears has done this to me. I get maybe a quarter to a third of the way into his book and start thinking "This is ok, but I'm starting to lose interest. I'm not sure if I want to read much more of this story." But then it turns out the story isn't what you think it is. And it isn't just some cheap twist either, but more that the characters, just like the reader, simply don't have the total picture and make assumptions, mistakes, interpretations that the next ...more
Teresa Lukey
Jun 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was really hard for me to stick with. It's told in a way that is mostly back story and I found myself thinking can we please just get to the point. Unfortunately the point does not come until the end, but it will shock you. I found myself exclaiming, "oh my god!"

The story is centered around the life of John Stone who falls to his death from his library window. In his will, he indicates he has an unacknowledged child that his fortune should go to, but no one has ever heard about this ch
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Judy
Jun 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: listened-to
This is one of those books you need to read rather than listen to. The best thing about it is the three-part complex plot, which doesn't lend itself to the audio version (at least for me).

The book begins with the narrator attending the funeral of a woman he once knew and may have been in love with, then flashes back to the death of her older, wealthy husband 50 years before from a fall from a window in 1909 in London. The wife hires the narrator to track down an unknown child named in her husban
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Danielle
May 13, 2012 rated it did not like it
I grabbed this from the 'New Books' section from the library and then was stuck with it on a flight. Upon my return and 200 pages in I was bored and wished I could abandon it but felt obligated at that point to just keep reading. I don't mind long books but at 594 pages I do expect it to be decent reading. Its current score on Amazon is 4.5/5.0 stars so apparently someone liked it. The whole mystery noir isn't my typical reading genre so maybe that was its first strike but the story was so convo ...more
Kathy
Jun 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A really great but very long book that is something of a project to read. At one point I became somewhat impatient and slightly bored, but I carried on reading. I am so glad I did. This is made up of parts or one could almost say eyewitness accounts that give very different accounts. Thus...if you do set out to enjoy this book take it slowly and pay attention to the names and details. All will be unveiled in the last eyewitness account. I came to this book rather late as I have not read this aut ...more
Fionnuala
Jul 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
A return to form for Pears, his best since An Instance of the Fingerpost.

John Stone is mysterious as any man of power. Married to a bewitching younger woman with a mysterious past, in charge of one of the first great conglomerates and afflicted with vertigo, he dies by plunging from a window and leaves behind a will leaving vast wealth to a never acknowledged child. His wife hires an impressionable young journalist to find out. His account is followed by two others, stretching back half of Stone
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Isabelle
Jun 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Another stellar novel by Iain Pears! He certainly knows how it is done, no doubt about it...
Who knew the world of high finance could be that thrilling? We all know it is a world of intrigue, treachery, egomania and tragic flaws, but in the hands of Iain Pears, it takes on epic proportions and becomes a terrain where all human foibles run free.
As always, a very brilliant construction full of surprises and several voices, each one more convincing than the previous one.
Simon Mcleish
Mar 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in February 2011.

Iain Pears has to be one of my favourite crime authors. The magnificent An Instance of the Fingerpost is an incredible historical thriller, with three different solutions to the mystery being presented by different narrators, while the Jonathan Argyll series is an entertaining and amusing romp through the Italian art world. The two are very different sides to Pears' talent, and his newest novel, Stone's Fall is cut from the same cloth as An I
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Kay Rollison
Jun 03, 2011 rated it liked it
I picked up this book not knowing anything about the work of Iain Pears, but it seems he is well known as a writer of historical mysteries, as well a series about an art historian/detective which draws on his own professional background. This one, published in 2009, is about the life of a fictional nineteenth century arms manufacturer who has some things in common with the real life armaments king Basil Zaharoff, and which deals with some real events, in particular the financial ‘panic’ of 1890. ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I read this at this time because it is included in the listopia London Calling. I found it interesting that the action takes place in three cities: London, Paris and Venice. There are a couple of places where Pears describes London and Paris that were quite good. Following a more detailed description (and I use the term "description" loosely, because the words to me are more active than passive) he says:
Just one street. Multiply it by thousands and you have London, sprawling over the landscape,
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Felice
Aug 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There have been so many occasions that I have seen or heard a novel described as Dickensian. Do you want to know how often that turns out to be true? Almost nev-ah. Less than almost never even. That's very disappointing. So sad. Charles Dickens is my favorite, favorite, favorite author. I heart all the Victorians but Charles is my desert island author. I try to be a big girl about it and move on but then --cue the angelic choir-- goodness gets its reward and suddenly there it is the truly Dicken ...more
jillian
Feb 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book was brilliantly put together - a series of cogs and wheels and moving parts that only come together as the three parts are read. As we go backwards in time, to see John Stone's rise, we are taken through the pieces of his life which caused his fall. The story was riveting, and the narrative voices compelling, as the story explains the love affair between Stone and his wife, Elizabeth. Elizabeth's dramatic history is revealed piece by piece, as it dovetails with her husbands, and the tw ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Jun 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: july-aug-2009

"Think of a subject so dull that no one would possibly think to make a thriller out of it. Now double the length of said thriller. Then add the author Iain Pears—and you've got a weird magic trick on your hands," noted the Times in amazement. Although he introduces complex ideas about global finance and industry, Pears humanizes them through his wholly compelling charactersóengaging, shady, and unreliableóand detailed settings, from anarchist meetings to Parisian salons. Riveting, smart, and tho

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Cindy
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Liked the audio version. History given is accurate, necessary & interestingly written. Nearly quit thinking it a romance (only mystery there usually is HOW/WHEN they get each other - ugh!). Glad I didn't quit it although it ended a little sick. Sorry for typos in 'update' review, couldn't edit it.
Geza Tatrallyay
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great book. Very relevant today when "financial" war is very possible. Well-researched, well-written, a gripping tale of what might have happened earlier in the century. Highly recommend it.
John
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the fourth of Pears's five (to date) standalone novels. I haven't read the fifth, Arcadia; of the first four I've thoroughly enjoyed three (An Instance of the Fingerpost, The Dream of Scipio and now Stone's Fall) while being far less entranced by the other ( The Portrait ).

What kicks off Stone's Fall is the death in 1909 of arms trader and industrialist John Stone, a figure unknown to the public but a pillar of international finance. He died through falling from a high window in his Lond
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Nytika Shetty
I don't know if this book deserves a 3 or a 4 star rating. I genuinely do not know how I feel about this book. In this book I see a similar theme to the one in "Instance of the fingerpost", but told here through different timelines as opposed to just multiple viewpoints. I found every character to speak with the same voice. I love Iain Pears's writing and think his stories to also be very intelligent. I was able to predict what the final few pages were going to reveal but I honestly thought it t ...more
Jim Leffert
Oct 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
With The Instance of the Fingerpost, Pears created a new kind of masterwork—a historical novel constructed intricately to work like clockwork, which glides sequentially from one subjective narrator to another, so that each section unveils new explanations that upend the previous narrator’s picture of the characters’ motivations and actions . Moreover, this novel draws the reader deep into a historical era’s skullduggery and political and geopolitical machinations. A subsequent novel, The Dream o ...more
Dianne
May 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating back to front novel. The first narrator, a journalist, is hired by Elizabeth Stone to search for her husband's secret child in order to complete the conditions of his will. The second part is set about 20 years before part one. The narrator, an English spy, Henry Cort, tells of the events surrounding the meeting of John Stone and his wife, and the hard headed financial and diplomatic manipulations at a crucial period when The British Empire is under attack. The third part is set fu ...more
Joan Fallon
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
As the cover informs you, this novel has it all - love, murder and espionage. Set in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century it is an intriguing story with many twists and turns in the plot. Written very much in the style of a nineteenth century novel, it is very detailed in its descriptions and moves at a slow, ponderous pace. Nevertheless the story is so gripping that I found myself reading it in a very short space of time. It is divided into three parts - at the end of part on ...more
Iowa City Public Library
London, 1909. Ruthless super-industrialist John Stone is dead, fallen from a second floor window. His estate is tied up indefinitely by a mysterious codicil leaving a quarter million pounds to his child. Trouble is, nobody, including Elizabeth, his enchanting wife of 20 years, knew he had any children. Elizabeth hires a journalist to make discreet inquiries, under cover of writing a biography.

Paris, 1890. Henry Cort, a sort of superspy, with a bit part in the first narrative, tells his own story
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Genevieve
Nov 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 (my review) but it has the same elaborate masonry and bones of that complex book. Pears is a seriously und
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Iain Pears is an English art historian, novelist and journalist. He was educated at Warwick School, Warwick, Wadham College and Wolfson College, Oxford. Before writing, he worked as a reporter for the BBC, Channel 4 (UK) and ZDF (Germany) and correspondent for Reuters from 1982 to 1990 in Italy, France, UK and US. In 1987 he became a Getty Fellow in the Arts and Humanities at Yale University. His ...more
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“A company is a moral imbecile. It has no sense of right or wrong. Any restraints have to come from the outside, from laws and customs which forbid it from doing certain things of which we disapprove. But it is a restraint that reduces profits. Which is why all companies will strain forever to break the bounds of the law, to act unfettered in their pursuit of advantage. That is the only way they can survive because the more powerful will devour the weak. And because it is the nature of capital, which is wild, longs to be free and chafes at each and every restriction imposed upon it.” 5 likes
“He (William Cort) had some desire to be successful, but it did not burn so strongly in him that he was prepared to overcome his character to achieve it.” 5 likes
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