Day 412: Stone’s Fall

Cover for Stone's FallBest Book of the Week!
Ever since Iain Pears wrote the stunning An Instance of the Fingerpost, I have been waiting for him to come out with something that could match it for complexity and interest. He has finally achieved this with Stone’s Fall.

Did he fall or was he pushed? might be the question journalist Matthew Braddock is asked to answer when Elizabeth Stone hires him after her husband falls to his death from his office window. Instead, she asks him to find the child John Stone mentioned in his will. Stone’s estate is tied up during the search for this unknown heir, but Elizabeth says she has no ulterior motives except a sincere wish to follow her husband’s wishes. As Stone was an extremely wealthy but private arms manufacturer and the only person who could understand the complex structure of his inter-related companies, many are concerned in his affairs, even the British government.

Completely infatuated with the older woman and feeling wholly unqualified to find the child, Braddock instead concentrates on investigating the last days of Stone’s life and the state of his corporations. In doing so, he finds evidence that Stone’s net worth was not nearly as large as everyone thinks. He also has questions about the involvement of Henry Cort, a mysterious figure believed to work for the Foreign Office. Braddock relates the tale of what he discovered quite some time after his 1909 investigation, in 1953 after Elizabeth Stone’s funeral.

Braddock’s story does not answer many questions even though he believes he has found some facts, but after his narrative, he includes a manuscript sent to him by Henry Cort. Cort takes his own story back further, to events in Paris of 1890, when he befriends Elizabeth after having known her years before.

The final section of the novel takes us to Venice in 1867, when as a young man John Stone meets Cort’s parents and the man who invented the torpedo that began Stone’s empire. It is in this final section of the novel that we begin to understand the answers to the mysteries of John Stone’s life and death.

This series of narratives is like a set of nested gift boxes–as we unwrap each one, we learn more and go deeper into the story, finally beginning to understand the mysterious Stone. The novel is impeccably plotted and beautifully written–a great reading experience for those who appreciate a mystery that is not formulaic.

8 thoughts on “Day 412: Stone’s Fall

  1. Carolyn O October 21, 2013 / 11:57 am

    I’m not much of a mystery buff, but this sounds intriguing, especially given the historical element.

    • whatmeread October 21, 2013 / 11:58 am

      It’s sort of a mystery, but not the traditional kind with a detective. It’s just that as each character tells what they know, you find out the answer to some mysteries about Stone. You might like it!

  2. rhchatlien October 21, 2013 / 8:50 pm

    The only book I’ve read of his was The Dream of Scipio. This sounds interesting.

    • whatmeread October 22, 2013 / 7:34 am

      I read that years ago and can’t remember it very well now. I was most impressed by this one and An Instance of the Fingerpost.

  3. Cecilia October 22, 2013 / 10:24 am

    YES – when I got interested in mysteries a few years ago it became a hunt for me to find good books that were not formulaic (hence my joy when I found Tana French!). Thanks for this recommendation!

    • whatmeread October 22, 2013 / 10:26 am

      I have another good one coming up for you then. I haven’t reviewed it yet, but I finished it this weekend, In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien. It’s not so much a mystery as a character examination, although crimes are involved.

      • Cecilia October 22, 2013 / 10:37 am

        I’ll look forward to it! I’m amazed at how much you read. 🙂

      • whatmeread October 22, 2013 / 10:41 am

        I don’t actually read quite as much as it looks like I do. I have a backlog of book notes from previous reading, which allows me to post more frequently than I’ll be able to do when I catch up. Unfortunately, I will be catching up to myself within the next few months, probably, in which case I’ll either have to post less frequently or figure out other book-related things to post besides reviews. Maybe I could do a short story day every week. I’m not as good or as insightful (I don’t think) about reading short stories as I am about reading novels, though. I definitely like the long form!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.