Stone’s Fall – Iain Pears

Let me start by saying that this is my favourite book of 2009 so far – I was completely unprepared for how much I would love this book.

The premise is quite simple: Why did John Stone die, falling out of a window at his London home? The story is a complex mystery, beginning in London in 1909 and gradually revealing the truth by going back in time – first to Paris in 1890, and finally to Venice in 1867.

The book is cleverly constructed so that in the first section John Stone has just died and all the information about him is vague and contradictory. In the second section he becomes a character, so we begin to build a better picture of him and in the final section he is the narrator, so we finally find out the truth about his fascinating life.

I did not want power or wealth for themselves, and did not in the slightest desire fame. But I wanted, on my death, to be able to expire feeling that my existence had made the world a different place.

This is a literary mystery, so the pace is quite slow and at nearly 600 pages it isn’t a quick read, but the length was necessary to create the vivid world and fully formed characters. The astonishing twists were reminiscent of Fingersmith and I am sure I will remember this book for a very long time.

The espionage and financial aspects of the book meant that I thought it would appeal to men more than women, but while I think this is probably true, I am a woman and it is my book of the year! I admit that there were a few sections where the financial implications of events went over my head, but I was quickly brought back to the gripping plot by another development.

This book has everything – a multi-layered complex plot, fantastic characters and a compelling mystery.

Highly recommended to lovers of suspenseful literary fiction.



I haven’t read anything by Iain Pears before, but after the success of this one I am definitely going to track down all his books.

Have you read anything by Iain Pears?

Which of his books is your favourite?


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  1. Cathy says:

    I really enjoy his Art History mystery series featuring Jonathan Argyll.

    1. Jackie says:

      Cathy, I will make sure I get hold of his other books very soon. I’m pleased to hear that you have enjoyed some in the past too. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Lezlie says:

    The only book I’ve read by this author is from the series Cathy mentions above. I enjoyed it though, and this one looks wonderful!!


  3. Jenny says:

    This sounds amazing but I am a little nervous about the financial stuff. I’m a bit stupid about that kind of thing. Still I love a book that goes backwards in time (it means you know the end at the beginning, which is totally my thing), so I’ll definitely have to check this one out. Thanks for the review!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I am good with numbers, but I don’t find the banking world that interesting. All I can say is that it was a very small section of the book (well several small sections!) and the plot is so amazing that it is worth learning a bit of extra finance for!

  4. Stephanie says:

    I’ve never heard of this author but after reading about how much you enjoyed this book, it seems like I should read something of his.

    1. Jackie says:

      Stephanie, I’m pleased to have introduced you to a new author! I hope that you enjoy this book if you decide to give it a try.

  5. Heidi says:

    Oh I am glad this is so good. I have had it on my TBR list – now I will move it up in the reading pile. I also have his book An Instance of the Fingerpost (which is always checked out of the library when I go) on my list to read as well.

    1. Jackie says:

      Heidi, I think I have a copy of An Instance of the Fingerpost buried in a box somewhere – time to dig it out! Let me know if you enjoy reading this.

  6. Steph says:

    Ok, the Sarah Waters recs have been cropping up on all of my favourite blogs for months now – I really need to read her and find out what all the fuss is about!

    But as to the real thrust of this review, I’ve never read any Iain Pears, though I may have heard of him, but your enthusiastic review has really intrigued me. You know I love a good mystery, and as I am working to train myself to appreciate and enjoy increasingly longer books this would probably be a good one to add to my TBR roster!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, Fingersmith is amazing and this one gets close. I recommend you try Fingersmith first (then you’ll know what everyone has been talking about!) If you love Fingersmith then give this one a try. It is a bit different (not as Gothic) but the mystery is more clever in many ways. I hope you enjoy both books.

  7. Annabel says:

    I dithered over this one in the shop, but at 18.99 for the hardback, I thought I’d wait for the pb. but it’ll definitely go on my wishlist – glad you enjoyed it.

    I enjoyed ‘The Portrait’ the only other Pears I’ve read, which was a one-sided conversation by an artist as he paints a portrait of his nemesis. A slow-burner but brilliant.

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, I know what you mean £18.99 is too expensive for me – I got my copy from the library! The Portrait sounds really interesting – it doesn’t sound like the sort of thing I’d like, but I am fascinated by this author now and I am sure he can make even the weirdest subject good. Thank you for the recommendation!

  8. Sandy says:

    If you declare it to be the best this year, then I write it down! I don’t worry so much if there are details that I don’t totally “get”. I just hike up my skirts and keep going. I always get so excited when you find a good one!

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, this is a lot slower and more complex than anything I’ve seen you enjoy so far, so I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on it. I love the thought of you hiking up your skirts though – I think you should read it just so you can use that sentence in a review!!

  9. Matt says:

    I’m glad you sing praises of this book because since The Dream of Scipio, which I couldn’t quite get into, I haven’t read him. Consider that you have rated this as one of the best this year, and that you and I share the reading taste, how can I not give this one a go? Love literary mystery.

    1. Jackie says:

      Matt, I haven’t heard of The Dream of Scipio, but I am sure you’ll love this book. I’ll make sure I skip Scipio for a while – thanks for the warning!

  10. diane says:

    Jackie, thanks for the glowing review. I own this one, and love a literary mystery so I better move this one up on my list.

    1. Jackie says:

      diane, I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did!

  11. She says:

    Sounds awesome! It’s an interesting concept as well. :)

    1. Jackie says:

      She, It is a great idea and it works really well – I hope that you find the time to read it.

  12. Teresa says:

    I’ve been mulling over whether I should try Pears. Literary mysteries are so hit or miss for me. But I do love a nice long book with a twisty plot, and the backwards construction of this one sounds interesting. I’ll keep my eyes out for it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Teresa, I really struggle to find good mysteries too. Sometimes they are too somple, sometimes they are just weird! I love the twists in this one and it is very well written. I hope that you enjoy it.

  13. Priscilla says:

    I was intrigued by this book before, but now I am going to put it on my must-read list. Ever since I read Fingersmith, I can’t get enough of this type of literary thriller.

    1. Jackie says:

      Priscilla, This is the first book I’ve found that has actually managed to get close to the Fingersmith. I have been disappointed by so many others in the past, but this is so clever. I hope you enjoy it!

  14. Beth F says:

    I have the ARC sitting here for months! I guess I’d better actually read it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, I look forward to hearing what you think of it!

  15. Wendy says:

    Wow – 5 stars! I have not read any of this author’s books, but have always been oddly drawn to them and wanted to read them. Now, I will have to run out and get this book :) Thanks for the review.

    1. Jackie says:

      Wendy, We’ve swapped 5 star books today! I’ve requested a copy of City of Refuge – let’s hope we both enjoy each other’s suggestions!

  16. Meghan says:

    I wasn’t as enthusiastic about this book as you but I did like it! I have An Instance of the Fingerpost by him and I plan on reading it on its own and trying to fully absorb myself in it. When I read this one I read it alongside other books, which I think was a mistake.

    1. Jackie says:

      Meghan, Your review was enough to make me seek out a copy of the book – thank you! I look forward to discovering the rest of his books!

  17. Violet says:

    wow, never heard of this book. But it sounds really good. But then again it’s 600 pages. You know sometimes I feel like I’m missing out so many good books by not reading chunksters…oh well.

    1. Jackie says:

      Violet, You should try a few chunksters. The best ones absorb you so much that you don’t notice the length – you are missing out on some great books!

      1. Violet says:

        oh well, I am planning to read Middlesex, I’ve already sent it to Singapore with my fiance :)

        1. Jackie says:

          Violet, Middlesex is amazing! I hope that you enjoy it!

  18. Thank you for the recommendation. I just added this to my wishlist.

    1. Jackie says:

      A Bookshelf Monstrosity, I hope that you enjoy reading it!

  19. Karen says:

    I haven’t read anything by this author before Jackie but you have made me want to give him a go! Have you got another one of his lined up??

    1. Jackie says:

      Karen, I don’t like reading two books by the same author close together, but I have several of his books here already. I’m not sure which I’ll try next, but will read ever which looks the most interesting sometime early next year.

  20. Jeanne says:

    I also loved this book. I think it requires big swathes of reading time (here’s my review of it; I almost gave up on it at one point, and then was glad I hadn’t.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jeanne, I can’t believe you read the last page! I am surprised that you enjoyed it knowing the secret – I found the twist at the end so shocking and it is why I loved the book so much.

  21. Stacy says:

    I’ve heard of this author, but haven’t read any of his books. Now I’m adding this one to my list. Great review.

    1. Jackie says:

      Stacy, I hope that you enjoy it!

  22. Simon S says:

    This gives me hope as I tried one of Pears other books and was really, really disapointed. It was An Instance of the Fingerpost which I joined in reading for my Grans book group (long story) and when we reaised the book was told over and over again character by character I thought how interesting… two characters in it wasnt and the whole group had given the book up half way through which was bizarre. This sounds much, much better.

    1. Jackie says:

      Simon, That is interesting to know. I had thought of trying Fingerpost next. I think I’ll try to root out a different one now!

  23. Jenners says:

    I’ve not read anything by this author but I’m adding this to my wish list. Great review.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, I hope that you enjoy reading it!

  24. Danielle says:

    I’ve only read one of Iain Pears’ mysteries, but any comparison to Fingersmith means I’m going to have to check this one out. I’ve got An Instance of the Fingerpost on hand–which I should have read ages ago since I’ve owned it quite some time now. But you probably know how that goes! :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Danielle, I hope that you enjoy Stone’s Fall. I have lots of books which have been on my shelves for far too long, so I understand your problem!

  25. Samantha says:

    I didn’t realise Pears had a new book out! I read his Instance of the Fingerpost and liked it so I will be adding this one to my wishlist.


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