The Man Who Robbed His Own Post Office (The Year of Short Stories, January), by Jeffrey Archer

Nine stars

Master storyteller Lord Jeffrey Archer has chosen to please his fans with a new venture; a short story released each month. Those familiar with Archer’s work will know that he can not only spin long and involved pieces, but also the short story that compacts adventure into a handful of pages. January brings us this interesting story about Chris and Sue Haskins, accused of stealing a large sum of money from the post office they own. While meeting in primary school, Chris and Sue found themselves in different circles and not showing much interest in one another. However, a few chance encounters paved the way to a wonderful relationship and eventual marriage. Starting with modest means, the Haskins’ sought to begin a business venture that could not fail. Working themselves to the bone, Chris and Sue sought to make more money than their modest fish and chip shop could produce. Working to purchase a busy post office, Chris and Sue continue to work hard and solidify strong relationships with their patrons. A letter from the Central Office governing post offices arrives with some less than pleasant news. Unsure what they will do, Chris and Sue begin to craft a plan that will work to benefit them and ensure they have a lovely nest egg. Thus begins a series of illegal events that will pad their bank accounts, as long as they are not caught. In a story that comes full circle, the Haskins’ soon find themselves before Mr. Justice Gray, baffled at the series of events that brought them to his court. Perfect for those who need a short break from their hectic lives, Archer treats readers to this wonderful short story that launches a year’s worth of intriguing pieces.

I have long been a fan of Lord Archer and his writing. While some propose to dust off the soap box and bemoan his legal issues, this has not diminished Archer’s ability to create powerful pieces that educate and entertain in short order. Commencing a short story collection not only allows Archer to continue honing his skills, but also gives readers something to enjoy when they have a little free time. In this piece, Archer focuses much of his attention on building up the backstory of Chris and Sue Haskins. Filling in just the right amount of backstory to provide context, Archer spins a story full of intrigue and fast-paced action. That this upstanding couple could turn to a set of criminal acts almost seems justified in the way Archer depicts it. With three decent length chapters, Archer keeps the narrative flowing such that the reader cannot stop reading until they have reached the final page, where even then Archer gracefully lets the reader down easily. I am so pleased to have come across this collection and will review each storey based on its own merits, binging with the five before me to catch up, before awaiting each instalment on a monthly basis thereafter.

Kudos, Lord Archer, for a masterful new story collection. How you find so many effective ideas that produce high quality publications I will never know.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: