The Power of One (Africa #1), by Bryce Courtenay

Nine stars

The dazzling writing style of Bryce Courtenay is captured in this, his debut novel. Its intricate prose and powerful characters bring a story to life that few readers will be able to resist. In rural South Africa during the late 1930s, Peekay is a young boy who has been sent to boarding school. With English roots, Peekay struggles in this school where the Boer boys ridicule him for his heritage, turning verbal pokes into full-on malicious attacks. With war building in Europe, Peekay is led to believe by classmates that Hitler will soon arrive in South Africa to toss the shackles from the Afrikaner people, long subjugated by the English. After a number of brush-ups with others, the matron agrees to send Peekay to his grandfather’s home, a long train ride across the country. Eager to leave, Peekay begins the long train ride, soon joined by the conductor, Hoppie Groenewald. This new friend helps Peekay with the ways of the rails, as well as being an amateur boxer in his own right. Peekay develops a passion for boxing and attends a bout where Hoppie is set to meet a much larger opponent, all during the train’s layover. Peekay is astonished when he sees Hoppie box, as well as the passion that others feel about the sport. From there, it is back on the train, where Peekay must survive the rest of the journey without his dear Hoppie. Arriving at his grandfather’s home, Peekay has distant memories of life with his family, including two young kitchen maids who keep him entertained. As he tried to acclimate to life in rural South Africa, Peekay befriends a highly interesting man, one Professor ‘Doc’ Karl von Vollensteen. Doc is a former concert pianist from Germany whose interest in botany piques Peekay’s curiosity, allowing him to further his education in a less formal setting. War continues to rage and South African officials choose to detain Doc, citing his German heritage as an issue that cannot be overlooked. While incarcerated, Doc continues to share his passion of music with Peekay and the other prisoners, many of whom are poor blacks. Straddling the middle, Peekay is able to forge strong friendships with the prisoners, who respect him for not treating them as lower class citizens, as well as with the guards, who help hone is boxing skills. Still young, Peekay must sell his abilities as a boxer to those who will help shape him into the athlete he hopes to become. Peekay’s passion for learning helps him excel in school and he’s sent off to yet another boarding school, but remains close to all those who have helped him along his path. The reader can easily become lost in Courtenay’s fabulous narrative that continues to twist from here, adding depth and insight to an already powerful tale. Highly recommended for those who love complex stories that touch on history and coming of age. How do I feel about the book? As Professor von Vollensteen would say, “for this I give… eleven out of ten. Absoloodle!”

Those who have not experienced a Bryce Courtenay novel are in for a treat with this piece. Not only does the reader have the opportunity to experience Courtenay’s first foray into writing but also experience his unique style, which combines well-developed characters with a plot that is rich with detail. Some may find his writing to be both excessive and too much to digest in a single novel, but it is this that makes the books even more enjoyable. Courtenay uses an interesting formula in his writing, which the attentive reader will discover as they meander throughout his novels, this one being no exception. There are scores of characters who cross the pages, each serving to develop their own backstory and to offer a slice of character revelation for the protagonist, Peekay. While the reader will notice strong ties between Peekay and one character in the early portion of the book, that individual will soon vanish, though their life lessons and impact are felt throughout the rest of the story. Courtenay inundates the reader with names and characteristics, which may cause some to stumble or require crib notes, but, rest assured, it is well worth the temporary confusion. Having read all of Courtenay’s novels, I can see character themes that reemerge, including token characters of a variety of backgrounds. The story itself becomes a tale full of twists and turns, such that the path on which the narrative is leading the reader soon changes, leaving what one might have expected to be left in the proverbial dust. This is also something that some may criticise, but I find this serpentine journey to be refreshing and forces the reader to remain engaged, rather than skim through parts of the story. As Courtenay calls this piece his loose attempt at a fictionalised autobiography (yes, the dichotomy of the statement is not lost on me), the historic moments and struggles are more than conjured up dramatisations from world events, but actual experiences that Courtenay felt. One can only imagine the strife in which South Africa found itself in the late 1930s and into the 40s. The Afrikaner population is still smarting as they are being regulated by the English, but they, too, have developed a sense that, perhaps, Hitler can come to save them and return the land to the rightful Boers. Peekay feels this throughout the novel, an English boy tossed amongst the strong-willed Afrikaners who look down upon him. However, there is also the theme of brewing apartheid, which has been loosely permitted for decades already. Courtenay’s narrative shows the subjugation of the black population and the brutality that is inflicted upon them. While I do not condone this whatsoever, I have always been very interested in the apartheid mentality and how the Afrikaners justified it to the world. Courtenay offers up a front row seat to the reader, hoping they will better understand what went on. As an aside, the book’s publication came just as the grip of apartheid was loosening, so it may be an educational piece to those who could not fathom the true horrors of the policy as it gained momentum and became a way of life. It is this sort of depth that has drawn me to all of Courtenay’s books, as he offers more than a superficial look at the world, which entertaining the reader. True, his books are long and tangential, but, like a well-paced journey, they permit the reader to gather many wonderful nuggets of information from page to page. As a friend commented to me recently, the story ends somewhat abruptly and has no strong sense of finality. Therefore, I’ll rush to get to the sequel, Tandia, to continue the exploration of Courtenay’s Africa.

Kudos, Mr. Courtenay, for such a stupendous piece. Re-reading this book has solidified why I consider it one of my favourites and a book I’d surely pack for an island isolation.

This book fulfils Topic # 3: Island Reading in the Equinox #3 Reading Challenge.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Advertisements

A Steep Price (Tracy Crosswhite #6), by Robert Dugoni

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Robert Dugoni, and Thomas & Mercer for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Presenting yet another stellar novel in the Tracy Crosswhite series, Robert Dugoni has not disappointed his fans whatsoever. While trying to come to terms with her pregnancy, Detective Tracy Crosswhite has yet to tell anyone, save her husband and partner, Kinsington Rowe. An added stress befalls Crosswhite as she is forced to testify in an important case that has many within Violent Crimes hoping for the best. When she returns to Seattle PD after a day of testifying, Crosswhite discovers a new detective assigned to her team, one who knows more about her than she’s comfortable admitting. Has her pending maternity leave been leaked to her Captain and is this new woman her permanent replacement? Before Crosswhite can get too wrapped up in the drama, she’s alerted to an ‘all hands on deck’ call, where two of her fellow teammates, Del Castigliano and Vic ‘Faz’ Fazzio, are out dealing with a shooting close to a playground. The victim, an advocate for cleaning up the neighbourhood of its drug and prostitution. Might someone be trying to execute their own vigilante justice to silence a do-gooder? Crosswhite is also called down to Missing Persons by a fellow detective, one who has a bad feeling about a case that’s just come up. Kavita Mukherjee, a college graduate from a traditional Indian family has up and gone missing. Her roommate and close friend has called it in, as it is so unlike Kavita to disappear. As Crosswhite takes on the case off the books, she learns that the Mukherjee family’s traditional values go so far as to want Kavita to marry and start a family. With little to go on, Crosswhite turns to a technological angle in order to seek answers. With these two cases gaining steam, the reader is pulled in deep to Dugoni’s masterful storytelling where no one is safe and no topic seems off limits. Brilliantly done and sure to appease series fans, as well as those who love a good America police procedural.

I have long admired Dugoni and his work, which seems so easy to read, no matter its length. He has mastered the art of character development, both looking forward and through well-woven backstories. Tracy Crosswhite may hold the name for the series, but it is not only her struggles with motherhood that finds its way into the narrative, but also the familial issues of another detective, who must face life-altering news. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The adage fits perfectly into this novel, as Dugoni seeks to add depth to the series and its characters, which is readily apparent to series fans. The narrative pushes forward and keeps the reader involved throughout, mixing longer chapters to develop plot lines as well as shorter ones, presenting cliffhangers and parachuting new twists into an already compact story. Dugoni never stops, though the reader need not feel tired or mentally exhausted, but rather astonished that so much of the book as progressed as they are lost in the story. One can only hope that Dugoni will not tie-off the series in the near future, as I know many who have come to love these novels and all that he has to offer.

Kudos, Mr. Dugoni, as you offer up yet another winner. I love all your ideas and can only hope that the novel plots keep coming to you as you put them down.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

On Leopard Rock: A Life of Adventures, by Wilbur Smith

Nine stars

Master storytelling and international bestselling author Wilbur Smith takes a break from his adventure novels to offer the reader a snapshot into his personal life. Having penned this memoir of sorts, Smith explores his life, both as a young person in Rhodesia and his eventual success as an author. Having grown up on a large swath of land, young Wilbur learned the important of farming and protecting the livestock. His father instilled in him the need to always be on the lookout for predators, particularly of the animal variety. Smith shot his first lions (three in one event) as a child and used these skills to ensure he was never left unprepared. While his father was stern and happy to hand out needed punishment, Smith’s mother nurtured him and introduced a love of reading. This would continue into his boarding school years, where older prefects sought to break him down, but Smith took his punches and escaped into a world of fictional lands whenever he could. Diligent academics saw him earn a spot in university and eventually as a tax assessor, a menial job that numbed his mind, but left Smith much time to write. While his first novel left him with nothing but a slew of rejection letters—enough to paper the walls of his first flat—Smith did not give up, writing about about he knew. This led to an adventure all about the African subcontinent’s coming of age in an era when war was carving up vast lands. By the time Smith sent When the Lion Feeds to his agent, he was hopeful that all his thoughts had finally made a difference. In 1964, the novel caught the eye of many and began his passion with writing. An instant success led Smith to churn out more novels about the region, which added to his highly popular Courtney Series and thus began a passion for reading. Smith explores how his personal experiences influenced the narratives of his novels, but that they were entirely fictitious, never seeking to communicate covert messages or provide him with a soapbox for political and social views. The more he wrote, the deeper his passion grew and soon Smith was developing many novels with deep themes that touched him in a part of the world under horrific racial divide. Apartheid and white minority movements in South Africa and Rhodesia fuelled a number of Smith’s novels, though the success he found in their publication permitted him to see other parts of the world and thereby pen new pieces based on these experiences. As the reader is swept up in the narrative, Smith explores his love of Egyptology, sailing, diving, and hunting, all of which found their way into his vastly popular pieces. Anyone with a love of Wilbur Smith’s novels should not let this piece slip by, as his stories offer much to explain some of the rationale behind his popular novels. Highly recommend to anyone who enjoys biographical pieces or Africa in general, as they will walk away with much more than they might have suspected.

I caught the Wilbur Smith bug a few years ago and have been hooked on the Courtney and Ballantyne series ever since. I often wondered what gave him these ideas and how they came to pass so fluidly. Also, being the attentive reader than I am, I had to know why there was such a gap between Courtney novels and what might have helped pull Smith back into writing them. All of these answers can be found within the pages of this quick to read piece. Just as in his fiction writing, Smith develops a narrative that flows so smoothly that the reader will be shocked to see how much they can devour in a single setting. Smith may not write in an entirely chronological manner, but the themes that emerge can be easily stitched together to give the reader a clear picture of the larger story that Smith seeks to portray. It was somewhat disheartening to see Smith dismiss his previous marriages and children, as though they were a distraction to his passion of reading. However, there may be more of a story behind them, one that is not yet ready for public consumption. Additionally, in his closing chapter about writing and the passion he has for it, there is little to no mention about his handing the reins of the Courtney series over to others, who have helped to dilute the stories and lessen their quality, something that might turn new readers away from looking to the start of both series. These were thoughts I had hoped would be recounted in detail when the memoir was before me, but I am left wondering still. I did take much away from this piece, which filled in more gaps than it left. Wilbur Smith truly is a masterful writing and I will try my best to continue reading his work—as well as delving into the Egyptian series—as long as he has an idea to convey.

Kudos, Mr. Smith, for such a detailed piece. I learned a great deal and it has helped me develop an even greater appreciation for you as a man and author. I hope many of your fans will take the time to find this book, as it enriches the reading experience.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Book of Judas (Alessandra Russo #2), by Linda Stasi

Seven stars

In her follow-up novel, Linda Stasi returns to offer readers another religious thriller sure to shake the core of some believers. It is rumoured that a collection of ancient papers was found in Egypt during the mid-1970s, including the lost Gospel of Judas. The leather-bound codex made its way to the United States and was stored in a New York safe deposit until 2000, when someone sought to gaze upon this lost treasure. All that was left were thousands of disintegrated scraps, useless and impossible to cobble back together. However, when journalist Alessandra Russo receives a call from her best friend, Roy Golden, there may be some new evidence in relation to the Gospel. It would seem that Roy’s father, a former bank manager, lifted some of the pages back in the early 1980s and locked them away in a protective tube. Admitting this on his deathbed, the elder Golden left his son with the burden of trying to decide what to do, though did caution that trying to open the tube erratically could destroy the only documented evidence about Judas and his connection to Jesus. Splashing the news online, Russo allows her friend to bask in the glory, but is also curious about trying to read this sacred text. She reaches out to a contact in Israel, who has brokered a deal with the Vatican, in hopes of claiming the document for themselves. With a steep price tag, Russo is happy to help her friend make a profit while ensuring the information does not fall into the wrong hands. However, Roy is arrested and charged with a spree of murders, leaving him incarcerated and Russo in a panic. The only way she can pay his bail is to liquidate the codex swiftly, which may require her to fly to the other side of the world sooner than she anticipated. Juggling the responsibility of raising her son, Terry, Russo has her parents making their way back to New York, but leaves the little one with her older neighbours, who leap at the chance to help. Arriving in Israel, Russo tries to connect with her source, though soon discovers that not all is as it seems. She races around the Holy Land trying to find clues to properly unlock the codex, only to learn that Terry has gone missing. Torn between unveiling the news about the codex and her son’s safety, Russo rushes back to New York, but is forced to hand over the codex in the ensuing rush to save Terry. Could the scholarly rumours of the contents of the Gospel of Judas be true? Might Jesus have concocted a scheme with his closest friend to mislead an entire religion? Russo cannot risk letting this information fall into the wrong hands and turn Christianity on its head. A well-written piece by Stasi, who injects just the right amount of humour to keep the reader curious. Those who enjoy religious thrillers that question some of the central tenets of established religion may find this one to their liking.

I remember reading Stasi’s debut novel, though admit that my extensive list of completed novels has left me unable to recall the specifics of the plot. That being said, Stasi does a decent job of retelling some of the poignant parts of the backstory so that the reader can almost recollect the details of that novel. She has Alessandra Russo still established in her journalistic capacity, but also trying to acclimate to the life of a new mother. This has not put a damper on her inquisitive side and sees Russo tossing herself into the middle of another far-off adventure. Working with a few other central characters, Russo is able to fuel an interesting storyline that has the narrative evolving with each passing chapter. Of interest to me is the discussion about this Gospel of Judas and what implications it might bring forth to modern discussion. While not as earth shattering as some of the other novels I’ve read in this genre, the narrative forces the reader to surmise what problems might arise if the Church were to be faced with downplaying the revelations. As always, the Catholic Church (read: Early Church) takes it on the nose for trying to alter the biblical narrative to fit their needs, but one can only suspect that Stasi has mixed factual information with some of her own fictional interpretations to keep the reader enthused throughout. The writing was decent, full of off-hand humour, but did not come across as well founded as I might have preferred. There was a lack of crispness with the written delivery and the plot seemed to sag at times, while addressing some high-impact events or turning points in the story. All that being said, there was much effort put into this novel and Stasi has done well to offer the reader an enjoyable piece, perfect for their summer reading pile.

Kudos, Madam Stasi, for another interesting piece. I can see some of your author influences in the writing style you present and hope you’ll continue honing your skill.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Paddle to the Amazon: The Ultimate 12,000-Mile Canoe Adventure, by Don Starkell

Nine stars

Back in the late spring of 1980, Don Starkell began an epic canoe journey with his two sons, Dana and Jeff. They planned to travel from the Red River in Winnipeg (Canada) down through to the Amazon, into the depths of Brazil. At over 12,000 miles, this would be the longest attempted journey ever in a canoe, which would test them at every turn. From the early attempts to get their rhythm and try not to bicker with one another, the Starkells sought to create a strong connection and teamwork as they made their journey into the Mississippi. While travelling through Canada and the United States was, for the most part, smooth sailing, their crossing into Mexico started a series of events can none of them could have predicted. Being stuck on land due to the weather, running out of supplies, and the start of salt sores, which almost paralyzed Don and Dana, things were sometimes overwhelming. Six months into their trip, Jeff decided that this was not the trip for him and he left, happy to return back to the barren winter of the Canadian Prairies. This left Don and Dana to forge onwards, where gun-toting pirates awaited them, as well as various military contingents, all wanting to see their documents. While Don documented the trip, Dana honed his guitar skills and entertained locals wherever he could. The journey progressed and while there were setbacks, the Starkell men were able to push onwards and make significant progress, eventually reaching the Amazon. It was there that much of the flora and fauna changed, becoming extremely tropical (as well as dangerous for cuts and infections). Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, these two pushed themselves past their limits and made it, twenty-three months later, to the heart of Brazil, having accomplished their ultimate journey. Left with memories and a lifetime of stories, Don and Dana Starkell made that incredible trek, paddling to the Amazon in their canoe. A wonderful read for those who can handle journal storytelling, told frankly and with much inspiration. I am so happy to have been able to revisit this story so many years later.

While I do not have a personal connection to this story, I did grow up in Winnipeg and read the complete published book in grade school, as well as meeting the author. His tale left me wanting to know all about it and I cannot be happier that Don Starkell took his massive handwritten journal and put it into something that could be published. His story is not only one of determination, but a journey of the soul, where he was able to get closer to his son (Dana) no matter the adversity that was placed before them. The Starkells faced many a dangerous experience and wanted to turn around numerous times, but did not let this spoil their sense of adventure. Sickness, disaster, political roadblocks, and even weather shaped their trip, but the Starkells simply rolled with the punches and made the best of what they could. This book, told in a number of journal entries, breathes life into this journey and helps the reader better understand what was at stake and how daunting this trip turned out to be. While they did earn entry in the Guinness Book of World Records, it was not praise or notoriety that drove these men, but the sense of wanting to accomplish something. It is for that reason that this was such a great book for me to choose as I sought something about a journey for my Book Challenge. I would encourage anyone with a sense of adventure to strap themselves in and try this book, then go out and see Don Starkell’s more troublesome adventure in Canada’s Arctic waters. But that, my friends, is another story entirely!

Kudos, Mr. Starkell, for your wonderful determination. I am so happy to have shared in this adventure and to have met you all those years ago. I hope others take the time to learn about this adventure and what it meant to you.

This book fulfills Topic #4: Here to There in the Equinox #3 Book Challenge.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Summary Justice (Benson and De Vere #1), by John Fairfax

Eight stars

John Fairfax has an established writing career (and awards to show for it) under his given name, but has turned to a nom de plume to dazzle readers with this legal thriller, full of twists. William Benson has had an interesting life to say the least. Charged with a murder he denies committing as a young man, Benson held firm that he was innocent, going so far as to profess it to a young Tess de Vere, attending the trial to see all the action. After being sentenced, Benson kept his head down in prison, eventually offering a confession to the crime and being paroled from his life sentence. While many men would have turned to a darker side, Benson chose to hone his skills and read law, earning his degree. After a few years of taking the legal scraps that were being offered, he has the chance to open his own shop, even though many still vilified him for his crimes. Knowing all the legal loopholes, Benson was aware that his criminal record would not preclude him from being called to the Bar, even if many in the profession sought to block him. When a woman approached him to represent her in a murder, Benson expressed shock, yet was prepared to do his best. In what can only be deemed a chance encounter, Tess de Vere re-emerged after some legal dealings in France and agreed to serve as his supervising solicitor. Together, they took Sarah Collingstone’s case to trial, a woman accused of stabbing a man to death with a broken bottle. While Collingstone refused to deny the evidence against her, she professed that she had done nothing wrong. As the trial continued and Benson was faced with continued adversity—both for his past crime and the evidence the prosecution had against Collingstone—he saw a great deal of himself in his client, someone who was about to be devour by the court system. While the facts as presented may have been stacking up, Benson could only hope Lady Justice would look out for an innocent person. A fabulously crafted legal thriller that will keep the reader wondering about many of the storylines. Perfect for those who love a paced novel that does not skimp on thought-provoking moments.

Having never read John Fairfax, I was not sure what to expect with this piece, but am pleased that I took the plunge. He has a wonderful way of laying out the scene and offering enough detail to pull the reader into the mix, without drowning them. The important aspect of Benson’s past is not left to short snippets of backstory, but is developed throughout, in the preface and peppered in the early parts of each section of the book. The protagonists have their own stories, which propel the larger narrative forward, though it leaves the reader wanting more, particularly about Tess de Vere, who has returned to London from some international legal matters in Strasbourg, though little seems to have been revealed throughout the early narrative. Fairfax does a wonderful job at developing a multi-faceted William Benson, pulling on his vulnerabilities but also his strength and seeking justice for a woman who has little hope of acquittal. This tug on the reader’s heartstrings works well without getting sappy or drawn out. Fairfax is also stellar in his development of the case, both inside the courtroom with wonderful testimony and outside as Benson tries to find an out. The revelations that come up during the trial are wonderful twists and turn the reader to wondering how innocent Sarah Collingstone just might be. I was pleased to see there will be a second novel in the series and can only hope the momentum developed here lasts with the follow-up publication.

Kudos, Mr. Fairfax, for a wonderful story that kept me wanting more. I can see how you were awarded literary prizes and hope others discover your work in the near future

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

High Heels (The Year of Short Stories, May), 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. May’s story introduces the reader to Alan Penhold, a trainee actuary and recently qualified lost adjuster. With his supervisor on holidays, Penhold is called out to the scene of a building fire, a high-end shoe factory. Working his first solo case, Penhold encounters many who remind him that this is surely one he will never forget, though the facts of the case are cut and dry. Likely some sort of electrical fire with an insurance payout of £4 million. Penhold undertakes some initial interviews, including with the owner, as everyone is convinced that there is nothing of note that should prevent the payout. However, Penhold discusses the matter with his wife and does a little experimentation of his own, leading to some added questions. While everyone seems happy to cut the cheque, Penhold is not quite sure. This first case may be one to remember for many reasons. Archer has done it yet again, pulling the reader into this story and leaving a twist on the end to keep things light. Those who love Archer’s short stories will enjoy this one over a quick beverage.

Lord Jeffrey Archer’s work is always full of unique perspectives, be they complete novels or shorter story such as this one. I am so pleased to have come across this collection and have reviewed each story based on its own merits, finally catching up. Now I await each instalment on a monthly basis, hoping they will be as interesting as these five. This was definitely one of the faster reads, with little time to develop backstories. However, even with a lack of character development, Archer pushes a fast narrative and keeps me wanting to know a little more. The mystery speeds up with each passing section and there’s soon little left but the reveal, which Archer does in his unique way. I have enjoyed all these pieces and now must be patient for the rest of the series to come, released for free each month to Archer fans!

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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Charity Begins at Home (A Year of Short Stories, April), 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. April’s addition is a curious tale about a rather beige man, Henry Preston, who sought his mother’s praise and became an accountant. In his dealings with various clients, Preston crosses paths with Angela Forster, an event planner, whose diary is full of galas and fundraisers. Upon reviewing her books for the tax man, Preston discovers that Forster is shortchanging herself quite severely, paying a pittance into her own bank account while these charities are making substantial sums. Working together, Preston and Forster devise a plan to skim a little off to top and launder it in such a way that no one will be able to track it or point the finger. This works well for years, until… Another masterful piece by Archer that keeps the reader in the middle of the action for the short story. Those who love Archer will not be disappointed.

Lord Jeffrey Archer’s work is always full of unique perspectives, be they complete novels or shorter story such as this one. I am so pleased to have come across this collection and will review each story based on its own merits, binging with the five before me to catch up, before awaiting each instalment on a monthly basis thereafter. Another legal sleight of hand here, something Archer has become adept at creating, pitting a seemingly bumbling man against the Establishment. Preston and Forster are both quite interesting characters, though there is little time to dwell on them as the narrative builds and lays the plot out before the reader. The story flows well and does not get too bogged down in minutiae, allowing the reader to speed through this piece in a single sitting. Archer proves that his ability to hold the reader’s attention with a short story is one of his greatest assets, though he is equally able with full-length novels. One can only hope that Archer will keep churning more stories out (he does have eight months left in this year of stories) and that fans will never tire of his unending list of ideas put to the page.

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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Too Many Coincidences (The Year of Short Stories, March), 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. March brings about an interesting story that begins on a boat, or two. When Angus Henderson and Max Bennett meet after their boats bump into one another, they strike up a business relationship that could be highly beneficial. However, with Angus away for a time, Max sets his eyes on Mrs. Henderson, much younger than her husband. Ruth finds herself drawn to Max, who makes his move and leaves a mark on her heart. Working with Angus to settle some real estate matters, Max has the couple visit him in London to finalise proceedings. However, Angus takes ill and is soon sent to the hospital, where he dies, surrounded by family. Smitten with Max, Ruth agrees to marry him in short order and they continue what has been a whirlwind romance. However, something changes and soon Ruth notices that her husband is spending more time away. Longer periods of time apart lead Ruth to turn to another suitor, as she worries about how this second marriage will go. It is then that things take an interesting turn, forcing Ruth to realise she never really knew Max Bennett at all. Archer has done it again with a masterful story that can be consumed in a single setting. Short story aficionados will likely have much praise for Archer, whose ability to spin a tale leaves him in a class all his own.

Lord Jeffrey Archer’s work is always full of unique perspectives, be they complete novels or shorter story such as this one. 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. With little time to waste, Archer weaves backstories and character development for the protagonists, who come to life under his pen. The story, unique but with a flavour of some past pieces by this masterful author, keeps the reader intrigued and the fast-pace of the narrative leaves little time to catch one’s breath. Archer lays down a strong foundation and then uses his style to build up a story that the reader cannot help but love, adding a twist towards the end that is sure to blindside many. It is always refreshing to have some Jeffrey Archer pieces on hand, as he is able to take the reader on journeys never imagined while enjoying a cup of one’s favourite beverage. Brilliant work!

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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Caste-Off (The Year of Short Stories, February), 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. February’s story spins a tale of love, as complex as it is intoxicating. Jamwal Rameshwar Singh is a millionaire playboy with a cocky attitude and a flashy car. When he’s overtaken on the road by an elegant, but equally speed-hungry, female driver, Jamwal will stop at nothing to make her acquaintance. Following her to a hotel, Jamwal eventually learns more about Nisha Chowdhury, a woman he does not remember from his childhood. According to Nisha, a young Jamwal tied her to a lamppost and left her. Now, smitten with this woman, Jamwal will do whatever he can to have her hand in marriage. While Nisha does love him, she is well aware of the impossibility of their union. Jamwal’s father is a maharaja, therefore making their castes incompatible, though that does not seem to deter Jamwal. He would do whatever it takes, even defy his own family, to have Nisha as his wife. During a trip to break the news to his parents, Jamwal discovers just how deeply rooted tradition and caste appears to be and he must make a choice. Archer pulls the reader into the centre of this story and adds a twist that the reader likely never saw coming. Brilliantly executed, fans of Archer’s work will surely enjoy this piece, as might many who prefer shorter tales to fill their time.

Lord Jeffrey Archer’s work is always full of unique perspectives, be they complete novels or shorter story such as this one. 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. Archer takes little time to develop backstories for both Jamwal and Nisha, weaving them together and yet still developing in their respective spheres. The story rushes onwards, much like the vehicles they drove to open the piece, and takes a few hairpin turns as the narrative lays the groundwork for some superb plot thickening. There is little time to waste and Archer uses each sentence to enrich the story, tossing off the extra in short order. The reader may enjoy the building momentum that sees this young love flourish, though remain clouded by the issue of caste, so prevalent in Indian society. Archer adds his own flair to keep the reader guessing until the final sentence, his trademark. No matter what one feels about his time incarcerated, Archer frees the reader from any judgment by presenting this top-notch piece.

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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons