Archer has much to offer in this penultimate volume of his heptalogy, pushing the Cliftons, Barringtons, and a slew of other characters into the centre of dramatic events of the 1970s. As the novel opens, Emma Clifton awaits news on a libel suit that may see her forced to hand over control of Barrinton’s Shipping, as the Board is divided over her actions. While she is able to weather a rather choppy storm, her prowess is not ignored as she joins more directorships and is kept in the inner circles of the Conservative Party and its rising star, one Margaret Thatcher. As these events progress, Lady Virginia Fenwick will not take the loss in her proceedings with Emma Clifton sitting down. She is prepared to continue her scheming in order to remain in good standings with those around her. Sinking her teeth into a wealthy American, Lady Fenwick devises a plan that will link them and help fund her lavish lifestyle, but only if she can pull off a ruse of enormous proportions without being caught. Her former husband, Giles Barrington, has been busy with his own life since being disgraced during his sister, Emma’s, trial. Giles must admit his affair with a translator in East Germany, Karin Pengelly. This news is splashed across the tabloids, including whispers of a pregnancy, which stymies a return to the House of Commons. Luckily, the PM has secured a spot for him in the House of Lords, where he can make a difference and still hold a Cabinet post. Karin holds a secret from him, which she does not reveal even after they marry; she is an East Germany spy, alongside her step-father, who are keeping the Stasi and Communists informed. However, Karin’s dealing are being closely watched and her future is in jeopardy if she does not turn against the Germans. While the reader may wonder greatly about Sebastian Clifton, son of Harry and Emma, he has his hands full with a collection of issues. After he remains unable to reconnect with his daughter, Jessica, he must focus on the woman who holds his heart at present, one Priya Ghuman. Chasing her across the world, in defiance of her parents, might be the only way he can find true love, though nothing comes as easily as that and plans go drastically awry for the man who has timed everything perfectly. He is forced back to England, empty-handed, and left to handle his job in banking, where a merger is about to turn the tides on how things are run. When a group works behind the scenes to cripple Sebastian’s efforts, he is left to scramble, while one of the key players faces legal proceedings that could end his career and freedom. All this while Sebastian makes another stab at connecting with Jessica and her mother, Samantha, a woman from his past. While he must choose wisely, the precocious Jessica will stop at nothing to unite her family once and for all. Finally, as if he wants nothing more than to sit in the background and write for a living, Harry Clifton continues to fight for the publication of Uncle Joe, a manuscript he prepared for his friend and former cellmate, Anatoly Babakov. While Clifton is sent on a book junket, it is less the content and more his ability to remember large passages that seems to appeal to the American media. However, Harry will stop at nothing to ensure his friend receives all the merit coming to him, even as the Soviets keep him detained in Siberia. When Babakov’s book receives the ultimate award, Clifton takes the reins even after Babakov is unable to attend the ceremony, creating a new movement in the Cold War clash. All this and more await readers who wish to soak up Archer’s powerful novel that lays the groundwork for an exceptional end to it all. Gripping and captivating, with some cliffhangers that show Archer is as cruel as he is a literary genius.
Jeffrey Archer is a man whose writing and ideas never seem to end, even after three-plus decades. He has been able to pull readers into his works by appealing to a large cross-section. Mixing politics with history and adding just enough family drama, Archer knows how to pace a story that keeps the reader wanting to learn a little more. History as a backdrop not only provides a wonderful pace-setter, but also forces the characters to move in a forward motion, no matter what they have on their respective plates. While Archer has been able to use a key collection of characters, he does offer fresh blood in the form of new generations and characters whose importance emerges through the delicately balanced narrative. One would be remiss if they ignored this, as Archer is forced to keep the backstories straight while providing new ideas to keep the reader curious. The mix of a strong setting, powerful narrative, stellar characters, and powerful dialogue creates a dramatic series that pulls the story in so many directions while keeping the reader firmly grounded. And there is still more to come, in the final volume. While I could expound on this novel and the series for days, I have one more novel left to finish it all off. Shall we continue the journey through to its completion?
Kudos, Lord Archer for yet another wonderful novel. Your ideas amaze me, but I have grown to expect to be shocked with every passing publication.