Spiegel & Grau
May 05, 2009
Stone’s Fall: An erudite and intricately plotted novel with eerie echoes of prophetic truth.
Matthew Braddock’s tale begins in 1953 when he attends the funeral of Elizabeth Stone, Lady Ravenscliff, whom he knew many years before her return to Paris. Elizabeth hired Braddock ostensibly to write her husband’s biography, but in reality it was to find her husband’s illegitimate son without whom Lord Ravenscliff’s will could not be settled—or was it?
As Braddock returns in memory to the past—and the machinations and plots surrounding his entrée into the Ravenscliff’s’ world of high finance, espionage, lies and dissimulation—he ends feeling that he has been duped. He feels used by a woman whose claims of love for her husband are little more than a disguise for cold-hearted murder. Then Braddock receives a package from a so-called dangerous man and a murderer many times over in the service of the British government. Braddock is forced to see his past and the world he thought he knew in a much different light.
In today’s world where high finance and the industrialization of capitalism are crumbling all around us, Iain Pears’ novel Stone’s Fall is a revelation with chilling implications. More so, it is an engrossing and mind-bending story that moves backward and forward through time with ease and familiarity. What could have been a choppy and uneven novel reads seamlessly. The transitions between times and points of view flow fluidly and naturally.
Elizabeth emerges as the consummate lady, equally fascinating and dangerous, a more fully realized Irene Adler, the only woman Sherlock Holmes loved and respected. However, she is not alone in Pears’ cast. From the enigmatic Lord Ravenscliff and the deftly tangled strands of his financial and industrial concerns that hold the key to the fate of the world’s economy, to Henry Cort, the Machiavellian agent of espionage, Pears gives each a turn. It is a simple story that begins like a tangled Gordian knot. Nothing is as it seems nor is it as diabolical or horrific as it is made to be. Pears’s novel seems astute and timely.
Stone’s Fall is a masterpiece of fiction that never fails to surprise, enchant and illuminate. A classic fiction deftly executed with staying power.
Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell