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: