An Instance of the Fingerpost (1997) is a historical mystery novel written by Iain Pears.
The story is set in 1663 at and around Oxford University, where lecturer Robert Grove is found poisoned. The narration is provided by the accounts of four of his contemporaries as they relate their actions and the events surrounding the murder, 20 years after it happened.
This novel provides examples of:
* AllWomenAreLustful: Anthony Wood says this outright in his account, but this is really the belief underlying all the characters' attitudes towards Sarah. (Except maybe Wallis, who doesn't really seem to care one way or the other about her morals as long as she can be used in his elaborate plot to foil an imaginary assassination attempt.)
* AsTheGoodBookSays: Dr. Wallis uses excerpts from Literature/TheBible quite liberally. There is also a scene in which two men make a contest out of throwing quotes at each other.
* ClearMyName [[spoiler: subverted since Prescott's father actually is a traitor and Prescott is crazy]]
* DeadPersonImpersonation: [[spoiler:Marco da Cola died after his return from Crete; his brother Andrea took on his identity while in England.]]
* EloquentInMyNativeTongue: Marco da Cola, a Venetian, also eloquent in Latin
* EvilJesuit [[spoiler: "Marco"; it's hard to tell to what extent he qualifies as evil]]
* HistoricalDomainCharacter: Unsurprisingly considering the genre there are quite a few: Of the four viewpoint characters mathematician John Wallis, historian Anthony Wood were actual people. A third, Jack Prescott, is in part based on the life of Richard Willis. A dramatis personae at the end of the book lists the more important recurring historic characters.
* TheHouseOfStuart: The narrative takes place during the early years of Charles II's reign.
* LiteraryAllusionTitle: The title, as well as short epigraphs for each part of the narration, is taken from Francis Bacon's ''Novum Organum Scientarum''.
* MessianicArchetype: [[spoiler:According to Wood's interpretation of the events, Sarah Blundy is a reincarnation of Jesus.]]
* MiscarriageOfJustice: Sarah Blundy
* MistakenForSpies: Dr. Wallis believes Marco da Cola to be a spy/assassin.
* TheMole: Jack Prescott's narration relates much of his attempts to clear his father, who is assumed to have betrayed his fellow members of the [[LaResistance Sealed Knot]] to Oliver Cromwell.
* MyGirlIsNotASlut: All of the narrators have pretty unenlightened attitudes towards Sarah because they think she is promiscuous
* PerfectPoison: (averted) The poison used is a rather large amount of arsenic and what the reader is told of the victim's death doesn't suggest a lack of dramatic physical reactions. The physicians performing the autopsy find residues fairly easy, too.
* PleaBargain: The guilty plea earns a 'merciful' death by hanging, before being burned (in contrast to just the latter).
* ScarpiaUltimatum: Sarah thinks that Marco intends this when treating her mother and commenting that he will take his pay later [[spoiler: he doesn't, since he's a celibate priest, and so when Sarah strips in front of him, he ends up thinking of her as an evil slut]]. (She had good reason to think this way, since the last guy who did her a favor and told her to worry about payment later really did expect sex in return.)
* TheSpymaster: John Thurloe
* UnreliableNarrator: All four of them, though for different reasons.