Review: Be Careful What You Wish For

BY Aparna Nagraj IN B, Family Saga, Historical Fiction, Jeffrey Archer NO COMMENTS YET

Be Careful What You Wish For

By Jeffrey Archer. Clifton Chronicles #4. Grade B

Let me state on the outset that I am a big fan of Jeffrey Archer. He can reprint the addresses of Seattle’s Who’s Who, and somehow still make it interesting. So it is really hard for me to keep this review unbiased, but try we shall!

Bestselling author Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish For opens with Harry Clifton and his wife Emma rushing to hospital to learn the fate of their son Sebastian, who has been involved in a fatal car accident. But who died, Sebastian or his best friend Bruno?

When Ross Buchanan is forced to resign as chairman of the Barrington Shipping Company, Emma Clifton wants to replace him. But Don Pedro Martinez intends to install his puppet, the egregious Major Alex Fisher, in order to destroy the Barrington family firm just as the company plans to build its new luxury liner, the MV Buckingham.

Back in London, Harry and Emma’s adopted daughter wins a scholarship to the Slade Academy of Art where she falls in love with a fellow student, Clive Bingham, who asks her to marry him. Both families are delighted until Priscilla Bingham, Jessica’s future mother-in-law, has a visit from an old friend, Lady Virginia Fenwick, who drops her particular brand of poison into the wedding chalice.

Then, without warning, Cedric Hardcastle, a bluff Yorkshireman who no one has come across before, takes his place on the board of Barringtons. This causes an upheaval that none of them could have anticipated, and will change the lives of every member of the Clifton and Barrington families. Hardcastle’s first decision is who to support to become the next chairman of the board: Emma Clifton or Major Alex Fisher? And with that decision, the story takes yet another twist that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Be Careful What You Wish For showcases the master storyteller’s talent as never before – when the Clifton and Barrington families march forward into the sixties, in this epic tale of love, revenge, ambition and betrayal.

Be Careful What you Wish For is the fourth addition in the Clifton Chronicles pentalogy, more like Season 4 of the soap opera chronicling the times of Clifton-Barrington families. You’d be excused if you think that these families are perhaps the unluckiest, danger-magnet families on earth. Only the families on Ekta Kapoor shows saw greater misfortune directed at them. In fact, as you start reading, you realize that the main male protagonist, Harry Clifton, has been firmly relegated to the sidelines, in true Ekta Kapoor fashion.

Be Careful What You Wish For opens right from the point where the previous instalment, The Best Kept Secret, left off. Harry and Emma rush to the hospital to the news of their son Sebastian’s death, knowing now the family has made a deadly enemy in Don Pedro Martinez. This is a novel where Emma, Giles and the Clifton progeny all come into their own, leaving poor Harry to applaud them on. Major Alex Fisher and Lady Virgina Fenwick come back to thicken the plot in their own ways. Many new characters are also added into the mix, notably another wealthy family – the Binghams, and a shrewd banker Cedric Hardcastle, who’s pretty much an enigma for the most part of the book.

The book, in true Jeffrey Archer fashion, is a page-turner. Whatever else one would say about this book or the series as a whole, one can’t deny the fact that Archer has mastered the art of unputdownable story-telling. “I’ll sleep after this chapter” is something you’ll tell yourself over and over again during the course of Archer’s books, and this one is no exception. The tension and the build-up to the classic Archer cliffhanger climax leaves you wanting more. You only wish Archer had taken a more straightforward route to the denouement.

As such, Be Careful What you Wish For suffers from meandering narration, that sometimes states the way too obvious. This is an actual line from the book, I kid you not!

The best man handed the bridegroom a simple gold band. [The Bridegroom] in turn placed the ring on the third finger of [The Bride]’s left hand.

Third finger of the left hand! Who knew, right! After many such ramblings, the plot chugs along, but then you know all the twists coming from miles away. You are left thinking whether this series was better as a trilogy and not a pentalogy, looking at how predictable it has become.

Another serious problem that Clifton Chronicles suffers from is the sheer number of characters. Even the Queen Mother of England makes a cameo appearance in this book! The plethora of characters just means less character development, more confusion, and an addition to the disjointed feeling that have been inherent in the books of this series.

Notwithstanding all the negatives, Be Careful What You Wish For is an easy, gripping read if you like Jeffrey Archer’s yarns. It is by no means in the league of Kane and Abel or some other Archer classics, but the climax alone makes you curious enough to stand in line for the next book of the series. You can be assured I’ll be joining the line too, in 2015!

About Aparna Nagraj

Aparna is 29 and works at a math factory in Bangalore. When not trying to stay afloat in the sea of statistics, she loves to read. She reads anything from a toothpaste carton to religious texts, though fantasy is where she feels at home. Her other current activities include watching movies, commuting daily to the ends of Bangalore, and sending up a daily prayer to keep GRR Martin alive and healthy, so he can finish writing her beloved Ice and Fire saga.