Well, then - hands up all those who made it through to the end! If you have read Iain Pears' An Instance Of The Fingerpost, all four parts, all 692 closely worded pages, then I applaud you, and if you haven't finished yet, or you've abandoned it, then I'd say it is worth persevering.
It's a brilliant piece of writing, a sequence of events recounted through four dictinct voices, four sets of perceptions and preoccupations, four unique presentations of 'the facts'. It encompasses a vast amount of knowledge of life and culture in Restoration England, a time of political upheaval and manoeuvring and intellectual ferment - it's worth reading for its insight into the medical and scientific thinking of the period alone. It is complex and intricately plotted, but is it unnecessarily long?
At roughly 200 pages in, here's the note I made: "Any impatience with the relative circumlocution should be countered with a reminder that it's there for a reason; sit back and enjoy the ride and don't agitate about reaching the destination quickly or soon." You may disagree! Granted, by mid-way through the third part I was finding it hard going, but the pace picked up in part four, and the ending was surprising and ingenious - worth the wait, I think.
The author has some fun at his own expense with this passage from early in Prestcott's narrative: "It is my desire to set out clearly my account of events, and not bother with the silliness indulged in by so-called authors trying to earn spurious fame....All those elaborate conceits and hidden meanings. Say what you mean to say, then be silent, is my motto, and books would be better - and a lot shorter - if more people listened to my advice."
A crime novel and a piece of literary sleight-of-hand, a combination of artifice and scholarship, a work which puts flesh on the bones of real characters of the time, and which takes a single act in the essentially closed world of an Oxford college and uses it as fine focal point and as cause or effect of so much else in the wider world.
Over to you.
The 'cake' to go with this book is here.