Stone's Fall, by Iain Pears

A wealthy industrialist falls to his death from a window, and his widow employs a journalist to investigate a puzzling clause in her husband's will. Split into three parts, the book tells the story of Stone's fall first from the point of view of the journalist, then from that of a mysterious civil servant who knew Stone well, with the final part being Stone's own journals. As you progress through the three stories, more light is shed, from different perspectives, on Stone's life and death.

This was a recommendation from A Good Read. I can't now remember what they said about it, apart from all enjoying it. It is quite a long book (about 25 hours on CD) and I was a bit worried to start with that it might be a bit dense and require concentration to keep track of all the characters and story. But in fact it's not so much that there's lots of important information to keep track of; rather the author has a tendency to ramble a bit (not in a bad way) and recap what's happened. So in fact it was pretty easy to follow.

I did notice a few occasions where the editing felt a little bit loose; for example, there were quite a few places where his sentences were jarringly tautologous: "To my surprise, I was surprisingly good at it"; "Also, it would be good for my reputation as well".

The beginning of the book felt rather like What A Carve Up!, with a old(ish) lady paying a young writer to investigate a family secret - the fee and remit seem surprisingly (to the writer) generous. And like WACU! the writer seems a little bit dim - or at least, he often seems to be the only person who doesn't realise that the family has something suspicious to hide. He certainly is a bit slow on the uptake sometimes, and so while you can't always work out what it is that the journalist is missing, you can tell he must be missing something.

The second part of the book was the best part, where Henry Cort takes over the narrative and explains more of the background of Stone's life. Rather like a Susan Howatch novel, Cort appears at the end of the first section and has a conversation with the journalist which makes you think "I wish I could find out more about Cort", and there's a sense of delicious anticipation when the next section starts and you realise Cort is the author of it.

Cort is (in the book) a key figure in the Baring crisis which I hadn't realised until after reading the book was a real event. Enlisting Stone's help, Cort manages to arrange a way out of the banking panic.

The last section is taken from Stone's own journals, and mainly covers a period of time before Stone met Cort. It explains the background to Stone's success, and explains the reasons for his behaviour in later times. I thought this was the weakest section (although it was still good), with unresolved hints at events which may have some supernatural element.

The reason for Stone's Fall isn't made clear until right at the end of the book, and I didn't see the twist coming (mainly I think because various key facts weren't made clear until the end) but it was quite satisfying, and did make sense of the earlier parts of the book.

On the whole I really enjoyed the book and would look for more by this author.

Completed : 06-May-2013 (audiobook)

[nickoh] [2013 books] [books homepage]