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Stone's Fall    by Iain Pears Amazon.com order for
Stone's Fall
by Iain Pears
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Spiegel & Grau, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Stone's Fall by Iain Pears is a monumental feat of writing in the same way as a previous novel that won great acclaim, Instance of the Fingerpost. Stone's Fall takes place in the decades preceding World War I, its action shifting from London to Paris to Venice. We're told that 'A mysterious murder links the spheres of high-stakes international finance and the roots of the twentieth century arms race.'

This lengthy novel bursts with espionage, lies, murder, greed, power, and the electrifying society that surrounds its players - spies, journalists, bankers, stool pigeons, hit men and lovers. Iain Pears twirls the machinations of the banking world and high finance together with the greed of men all over this planet to manufacture a novel that is exhausting to read but hard to put down.

Set in three different times and told in three different voices, it's occasionally hard to know just who is narrating and where, but it is worth the effort. I know little of high finance even after reading Stone's Fall, but I sure enjoyed the exposure to this world. The history alone is so well researched, it is easy to place oneself back in the period when horses were used as transportation and ladies entertained gentlemen at tea. Mistresses abounded. The attire and mannerisms of the times bring the characters to life.

Iain Pears could have lived the history he portrays and in the cities he uses as background, so clearly does he blend his characters into the scenes. Collusion between governments is more than hinted at, and I hate to think these actions continue today. High finance is a cut throat business. Pears wheels and deals for his players, inserting his characters into illicit love, secrets that must be hidden or governments may fall, murders for the sake of someone's fortune. These individuals are motivated by their own desires and give nary a thought to the little guy.

Stone's Fall is an excellent portrayal of the times leading up to the Great World War. One that needn't have been fought like almost every war. My Dad fought in that war in France and carried the horror of it with him for the rest of his life.

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