Stone's Fall, By Iain Pears

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The Independent Culture

The 19th-century banking system is at the heart of Iain Pears's new historical thriller and, as you might expect, money and sex come intertwined. When a leading financier, John Stone, is found dead in mysterious circumstances, the fate of the money markets, and several nations, hang in the balance. His enigmatic widow, Elizabeth, hires a reporter to write her husband's biography and track down a long lost love child mentioned in his will.

As Pears's evocative narrative moves back in time, Edwardian London, fin-de-siècle Paris, and 1860s Venice become the setting for a story that proves less concerned with the career of John Stone than that of his wife – a "grande horizontale" who understands the real currency of power better than most.