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Review: The Sins of the Father

By Jeffrey Archer. Clifton Chronicles #2. Grade: A+

Without a doubt, the author’s best work till date. I just couldn’t put this one down. A book that sucks you in from the very first line and does not allow you to breathe until the last page is turned. It was my bad luck that I picked it up on the day before my exam.

I’ll still say that it was worth it!

On the heels of the international bestseller Only Time Will Tell, Jeffrey Archer picks up the sweeping story of the Clifton Chronicles….

Only days before Britain declares war on Germany, Harry Clifton, hoping to escape the consequences of long-buried family secrets, and forced to accept that his desire to marry Emma Barrington will never be fulfilled, has joined the Merchant Navy. But his ship is sunk in the Atlantic by a German U-boat, drowning almost the entire crew. An American cruise liner, the SS Kansas Star, rescues a handful of sailors, among them Harry and the third officer, an American named Tom Bradshaw. When Bradshaw dies in the night, Harry seizes on the chance to escape his tangled past and assumes his identity.

On landing in America, however, Bradshaw quickly learns the mistake he has made, when he discovers what is awaiting him in New York. Without any way of proving his true identity, Harry Clifton is now chained to a past that could be far worse than the one he had hoped to escape.

The story takes off exactly where it had left us in Only Time Will Tell, with Harry being questioned by the police inspector after being arrested because he was impersonating Tom Bradshaw. In typical Archer style, it progresses quickly through various characters, frequently going back and forth in time. There is the prominent Barrington family with Giles as Harry’s best friend and Emma, the mother of his child. Hugo, Emma’s father, also plays an important role. In the Cliftons, we have Maisie who has enough complications of her own, the most important of which is not being able to read the very important letter on the mantle piece.

The best thing about the book is the multiple, seemingly unconnected threads that quickly pull themselves together to weave a fascinating yarn. The main plot is proving Harry’s father was Arthur Clifton, not Hugo Barrington so that he can marry the love of his life, Emma. Another sub-story is Giles Barrington and his quest to prove himself. The second sub-story is how fate tosses and throws her around repeatedly. And the third sub-story is Hugo Barrington and his exploits. At his touch, gold turns to stone.

While this may sound confusing to somebody unaware of the author’s work, regular readers would identify and be pulled in easily. It also didn’t matter that I had read the prequel over a year ago. I was a little apprehensive that I may have forgotten the story, or the characters (because they were quite a lot). However, without seeming to talk of the past, the author gives enough information to recapitulate what happened so that the novel can also be read as a standalone.

When I talked to other readers about the book, some complained that it became irritating after a while when the point-of-view shifts. You are engrossed in Harry’s story when suddenly Emma’s will be started from two years ago. However, I feel that it builds the suspense and effectively keeps the reader turning the pages.

The ending, as expected, was completely unexpected. And abrupt. A cliffhanger that left me groaning when I turned the last page. I am buying the next in the series as soon as it hits the bookstores.

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Review: The New Collected Short Stories

By Jeffrey Archer. Grade B+

As a rule, I don’t like short stories. I feel that my interest has barely developed, I’m barely getting to know the characters when bam! The End.

An obvious exception to this rule is Jeffrey Archer. I was very excited to read this one.

This edition of short stories, bringing together three collections of Jeffrey Archer, showcases the storytellers skill like never before. Every reader will have their own favourite choices: the choices run from love at first sight across the train tracks to the cleverest of confidence tricks, from the quirks of the legal profession – and those who are able to manipulate both sides of the Bar – to the creative financial talents of a member of Her Majestys diplomatic service – but for a good cause. In ‘Caste- Off’, Jamwal and Nisha fall in love while waiting for a traffic light to turn green in Delhi, and in ‘Don’t Drink The Water’, a company chairman tries to poison his wife while on a trip to St Petersburg – with unexpected consequences, The stories held in these pages are irresistible: ingeniously plotted, with richly drawn characters and deliciously unexpected conclusions.

Some will make you laugh. Others will bring you to tears. And, as always, every one of them, will keep you spellbound.

The New Collected Short Stories is divided into three parts: To Cut a Long Story Short (2000), Cat O’Nine Tales (2006) and Thereby Hangs a Tale (2010).
These stories are diverse- some are law related, some love stories, some related to inter-caste marriages and some are general life stories. Even their length varies: while some end after barely five pages, some stretch for nearly eighty.
The language is lucid, the stories are simple yet entertaining, each different from another, well written and of course having his trademark twist in the end.

I loved the opening story- “The Expert Witness” which shows how a firearms expert is shown in two different settings: one in which he testifies for the defense and one for the prosecution. And in both cases, the Defense Attorney (who also happens to be the expert’s golfing partner) uses the same information to portray the man to the jury in a completely different light, depending on whether the witness is on his side or not.
I am always awed by how people can use words which actually mean the same to make the jury believe what they want to believe. He got me convinced as well. Typical lawyerly stuff but delivered brilliantly.

I also absolutely loved “A Change of Heart”. It actually brought tears to my eyes. Maybe it was just because I knew it was a true story, which makes more of an impact and I felt it more deeply. Again, there was some gorgeous writing in there.

Cat O’ Nine Tales marks his fifth collection of short stories. It is no different than his other books. It gives us a glimpse of the workings of convoluted criminal minds showcased by a famous ex-con himself.

I have only one problem, which is from ”Caste Off” in ”And thereby Hangs a Tale”:

“After the newly married couple had danced seven times around Pheras,the final confirmation of their wedding vows.”

Danced seven times around Pheras? We are not Red Indians! We don’t dance around seven times; I believe that we call that sacred Hindu ceremony of circling seven times around the holy fire “Saat Phere”.

If it had been somebody else except Mr Archer, I would have written a huge rant on this tiny mistake. What saves him is the fact that I know Mr Archer believes in proper research. I know that he personally visited India many times for some of his short stories, so it’s okay for him to make a couple of mistakes here and there. When you’re writing about something as vast and complex as Indian culture, it’s expected.

What I would like to say is, though I liked this short stories book, I would still like it better if Mr. Archer sticks to writing full length novels.

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Review: A Prisoner of Birth

By Jeffery Archer, Grade: A+

This was the very first book I had read that couldn’t be classified into a certain genre, and also the very first book that had been written by Jeffery Archer. I remember being very eager to start reading the novel, since I’d heard so much about the author.

International bestseller and master storyteller Jeffrey Archer is at the very top of his game in a story of fate and fortune, redemption and revenge.

If Danny Cartwright had proposed to Beth Wilson the day before, or the day after, he would not have been arrested and charged with the murder of his best friend. But when the four prosecution witnesses are a barrister, a popular actor, an aristocrat, and the youngest partner in an established firm’s history, who is going to believe your side of the story?

Danny is sentenced to twenty-two years and sent to Belmarsh prison, the highest-security jail in the land, from where no inmate has ever escaped.

However, Spencer Craig, Lawrence Davenport, Gerald Payne, and Toby Mortimer all underestimate Danny’s determination to seek revenge, and Beth’s relentless quest to pursue justice, which ends up with all four fighting for their lives.

Thus begins Jeffrey Archer’s most powerful novel since Kane and Abel, with a cast of characters that will remain with you long after you’ve turned the last page.

And if that is not enough, prepare for an ending that will shock even the most ardent of Archer’s fans.

The novel opens, when, after proposing to his childhood sweetheart, Beth Wilson (who is pregnant with their child), Danny Cartwright takes her and her brother who also happens to be his best friend, Bernard Wilson aka Bernie, to a nearby pub to celebrate. Here they are accosted by four people. A fight breaks out, and Bernie is killed.

Danny is accused by the four people who started the fight – a successful barrister- Spencer Craig, a young and much loved actor – Lawrence Davenport, an aristocrat – Toby Mortimer, and the youngest partner in a realty firm’s history- Gerald Payne, of having killed Bernie.

Despite vigorous attempts by his lawyer Alex Redmayne, Danny is convicted and sentenced to twenty two years of prison. His inmates there- Sir Nicholas Moncrieff and Albert Crann, known as “Big Al,” – prove to be good friends and come into a lot of use in helping Danny escape.

With a bit of luck and lots of help, Danny manages to do what nobody has ever done before: escape from the Belmarsh High security prison. Hell bent on revenge and having his name cleared, Danny plans to seek out the four people who ruined his life and punish them. What follows is a rollercoaster ride, with a mix of characters and emotions and lots of action – not physical, but mental.

The novel is simply superb. There is just no other way of describing it. The story, the characters, the situations, and the plight of the central character: all of it is wonderfully written and incredibly and realistically portrayed.

It is, without a doubt, one of the best novels that I’ve ever read. It is super fast, without being super fast. What I mean by this extraordinary comment is that though the story moves with a steady tempo and is highly absorbing, it does cover a decent time span. It is extremely captivating, to say the least.

The plot is splendidly thought out by the author. Each and every little detail is well accounted for. What I loved that there was not a single genre which it could be classified as, but multiple genres to which it belonged.

Next in line for appreciation are the characters. They were just so damn real. You could relate with each and every one of them, which is what made the story very universal. Each character had problems that were skilfully portrayed and each character contributed in making the story better. I absolutely adored each and every one of them, especially the main ones. Danny was a treat to read. His stubborn nature, his raw way of speaking, at least in the beginning, and his intelligence, all of it was a god send boon after reading tons of stupid and over rated heroes. Beth, Nick, Big Al, Alex and his father: They are all also wonderfully scripted.

Prison life is described in a very authentic way. It is bound to be accurate, since Mr. Archer has himself spent a few years in jail, if I’m not very much mistaken.

To sum it all up in a few words, A Prisoner Of Birth is a book which holds you prisoner and does not free you until you finish it. It has all the elements that you would require in a story to keep you absorbed. It is a page turner and is definitely worth a read.

This is a book you wouldn’t want to miss for anything.



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Review: Only Time Will Tell

By Jeffrey Archer. The Clifton Chronicles #1. Grade: A

The Clifton Chronicles is Jeffrey Archer’s most ambitious work in four decades as an international bestselling author. The epic tale of Harry Clifton’s life begins in 1920, with the chilling words, ‘I was told that my father was killed in the war’.
But it will be another twenty years before Harry discovers how his father really died, which will only lead him to question: who was his father? Is he the son of Arthur Clifton, a stevedore who worked in Bristol docks, or the first born son of a scion of West Country society, whose family owns a shipping line?

Only Time will Tell covers the years from 1920 to 1940, and includes a cast of memorable characters that The Times has compared to The Forsyte Saga. Volume one takes us from the ravages of the Great War to the outbreak of the Second World War, when Harry must decide whether to take up a place at Oxford, or join the navy and go to war with Hitler’s Germany. In Jeffrey Archer’s masterful hands, the reader is taken on a journey that they won’t want to end, and when you turn the last page of this unforgettable yarn, you will be faced with a dilemma that neither you, nor Harry Clifton could have anticipated.

Only Time Will Tell is the story of Harry Clifton until the age of twenty, but it’s told from various viewpoints, beginning with Harry’s mother, Maisie, who tells of the day she lost her virginity, just before her marriage. One afternoon will change the lives of so many people, not just Maisie’s and Harry’s. Harry only knew his father had died shortly after he was born, but he never knew the truth. And, people conspired to keep that from him.

Harry is a boy of only about five when the story begins and a young man at the end of the book. He is a character so believable and vividly drawn that I’m sure he will stay with me until the next book comes out. The poor kid goes through struggles that would make most people give up, but Harry struggles on showing he is truly his mother’s son. She works as a waitress and has her own difficulties as she works to make enough money for Harry’s schooling. His amazing voice helps him get ahead for several years, but puberty sends him to the drama department where his maturing voice and theatrical talent added to his determination to make good grades ensure his success.

Again, the characters were amazing. I loved each one, especially the villains. Jack Tar was amazing, and Harry’s mother’s courage is selfless and awe-inspiring.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book for several reasons. First, Archer really connects his characters. Second, he fleshes out the aforementioned characters. Third, he tells a gripping tale that has twists and turns that I certainly did not see coming. Last, he leaves you wanting more.

I especially liked the narration. Archer took one point-of-view and advanced the story a couple of years. Each section for a character starts off with a first-person narrative, and then switches to a traditional third-person narrative for that character. It was constant going and coming back, reading the same scene from different perspectives, and that made it an interesting experience.

Overall, this is a new series featuring Harry Clifton, son of a dockworker (or is he the son of an upper crust owner of a huge shipping line?), and his climb through the British public school system is going to be a delight if this first one of five is any indication. Make no mistake, this is not a Pulitzer, but it is good, solid storytelling, with bold characters, a world wide setting, and a story that has enough twists, turns, and sneaky heart-stoppers to definitely merit the label “page turner.”

Check out an amazing interview by the author which gives us a glimpse into the plot of the second book: HERE.

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Review: Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less

By Jeffrey Archer. Grade: A

Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less
Jeffrey Archer is a brilliant author which delivers with every book he writes. Not A Penny More…is worth every penny. I picked up his first novel because the man himself is fascinating. I learned that his personal life is as scandalous as his fictional characters, and if you happen to be a Brit, he probably ranks right up there with the royal family in terms of tabloid coverage. But you have to hand it to the guy: for someone who was on the brink of bankruptcy and forced to step down from political office in financial disgrace, he didn’t sit around and moan. He took up pen and paper, wrote his first novel, and launched a stellar writing career.

I have no idea if the novel was simply catharsis for him, or if he was confident enough in his abilities to think he could regain his fortunes with just a single book. For those that don’t know the story, he invested $1 million of his own money in the early 1970s in a Canadian company that turned out to be a scam. He found himself almost penniless overnight and although he did not ultimately declare bankruptcy, he came awfully close.

But the rest, as they say, is history. The fact that he sat down to write rather than just curl up in the fetal position tells me something about the tenacity of the human spirit in this man

David Kesler, a Harvard graduate working for Prospecta Oil, in all innocence made four people invest in Prospecta Oil Shares. David was told that the company had made a fantastic strike in the North Sea and when they announce it the shares of the company would be at an all time peak.

The four people involved were: Stephen Bradley, Dr. Robin Oakley, Jean-Pierre Lamanns and Lord James Brigsley. Stephen Bradley was David’s friend during Harvard days and a visiting American professor at Oxford. David made a casual visit to the Dr. Robin Oakley, where he mentioned about the strike. David met gallery owner Jean-Pierre Lamanns when he went to buy a piece of art to furnish his apartment and he met Lord James Brigsley while having a drink.

The four invested a good chunk of money in Prospecta Oil, only to realize they were tricked by Harvey Metcalfe, a Boston based self-made guru of deceit . They decided to get their money back.

All the four came up with their individual plans using their skills and area of expertise. James who initially did not come up so easily with the plan, ultimately surprised the other three with his plan. The four with their neatly laid plans went ahead in pursuit of their goal of defeating Metcalfe and getting their money back.

How they go about doing so, and whether they succeed in their design or not, forms rest of the story. The marvelous plots and meticulous planning that goes into each one of their ventures and the nail biting suspense enshrouding the execution of those plans makes a very good read.

However, the one part that did not sit well with me is that, in the beginning, the character of Harvey Metcalfe has been etched out as an extra-ordinarily cunning and shrewd businessman. So, later on it feels a bit far-fetched to see four men prey upon him successively, without his ever realizing that he is being taken to the cleaners. There was no counter plan by Harvey or anyone else while these men were cheating him. Had Harvey detected that he is being cheated and had there been some counter strategies the novel would have been more interesting to read. The story goes almost one sided.

Also, they successfully duped a Nobel laureate, a world famous Doctor, university Vice chancellor and a world famous painting. In real life it is very much unlikely that this amount of impersonation will go undetected. However, if you ignore these few parts, the book is perfectly enjoyable.
Written in 1973, the plot doesn’t quite race along from start to finish, like some of his later novels, it’s a pleasnt ride.

The book was adapted as a four-hour, two-part mini-series, directed by Clive Donner and starring Ed Asner as Harvey.

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Review: False Impression

By Jeffrey Archer. Grade: A

September 10, 2001. Victoria Wentworth, an heiress whose family fortune has declined tremendously due to financial mismanagement, is murdered in her home after deciding to sell a Van Gogh painting to pay off her debts. Dr. Anna Petrescu, an employee of her creditor, recommended this course of action in a report given to both Wentworth and Petrescu’s employer, Bryce Fenston. But Fentson wanted the painting, not the money, and will stop at nothing to get it.

Fenston fires Petrescu, and as she is cleaning out her desk in the North Tower of the World Trade Center, disaster strikes. Assumed dead, Petrescu determines to prevent Fenston from getting the Van Gogh, if it’s the last thing she does. And with an assasin on her tail, it just might be …

The plot centers around a millionaire art collector and megalomaniac who contrives to have people killed and wind up with their property without having to pay for it. He specializes in loaning money to people who have expensive art, and who won’t be able to pay off their loans, especially not with the terms he negotiates. The book starts the day before 9/11/01, with him finalizing a “deal” that will bring him one of Van Gogh’s self-portraits, worth tens of millions, for next to nothing. He runs into a snag, though, in that his office is in the World Trade Center. Though he escapes unharmed, he finds former and current employees working to sabotage the deal and see that the Van Gogh winds up in proper hands.

The main characters are interesting and believable. As you might expect in a suspense novel, they aren’t fleshed out as fully as they would have been in one of Archer’s family sagas, but then they really don’t need to be. The secondary characters, whether wicked or good, are also very interesting.

I’ve never studied art history – I wouldn’t know a Monet from a Manet. But I enjoyed this book, and even learned a little bit in the process. The only problem I had with the book was that one plot point (why Petrescu’s friend Tina worked for Fenston) wasn’t mentioned very often in the book, even though it got a big mention on the back cover. But that didn’t mar my enjoyment of this book.

Apart from this, the book has its faults. The mystery doesn’t live up to the author’s standards. Anna Petrescu’s feats of theft, evasion and avoidance too convenient for belief, but also any advantage she has in keeping just one step ahead throughout is due more to sheer dumb luck and bungling on the villain’s end rather than anything remotely crafty on her side.
It’s not a bad novel, if you don’t mind a thriller that feels as though it was assembled from bits and pieces of other thrillers. Certainly Archer’s writing skills have not deteriorated over the years, although they haven’t improved, either. Some readers, too, may question the wisdom of using the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center as a plot point; this isn’t a serious work about terrorism but, instead, simply uses the tragedy as a convenient narrative landmark.

Also, the day after 9/11 the FBI still has surveillance on Anna’s apartment, and deploys ANOTHER team watch Tina’s apartment! Then multiple teams are posted at every major European airport waiting for Anna–No way. Note that she used her own passport—yet the FBI could not discover her destination?–No way. Moreover, virtually every FBI agent in the country was immediately retasked to investigate 9/11–because it was feared that additional attacks were imminent. Note that Fenston was not even suspected of crimes in the U.S., the crimes he commited were on foriegn soil—which would be relatively low priority at any time; zero priority the day after 9/11.

“Suspension of disbelief” is like a rubber band, which can be stretched a long way for a good story. But once it snaps, it becomes difficult to enjoy the story. Difficult, but not impossible. Archer is such a good storyteller that the story captivated me anyway.

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