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

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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

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

Tell Tale: Short Stories, by Jeffrey Archer

Nine stars

It is always a pleasure to read something penned by the great Lord Jeffrey Archer, whose ideas seem never to run out as he presents them in a witty fashion. In this group of short stories, Archer presents the full gamut of his capabilities, showing that he can write something shorted than half a page, as well as a multi-part piece that spans many of the collection’s pages. Brilliant in his ideas, Archer tells tales of stamp collector, eager parking attendants, duplicitous insurance scammers, and those who want to ‘stick it to the man’. The reader will find themselves fully captivated in the stories and wishing the collection could go on forever. As intriguing as his Clifton Chronicles and some of his other epic novels, this short collection is worth every invested moment the reader takes to complete these fourteen stories.

I am filled with joy to find anything by Jeffrey Archer on my TBR shelf, especially his short stories. His list of ideas seems endless and he always finds ways to weave together masterful pieces that include a little punch at the end, as if the reader needed a jolt to end their reading experience. The vast array of characters in this collection is wonderful and Archer is able to develop those vessels of the narrative with such ease (and differentiates them so effectively). I can almost see the characters as they travel through the story, which is surely the sign of a quality writer. The stories are also wonderful for their variety as well as poignant lessons embedded in the text. Even when Archer is faced with stunning limitations (one hundred words exactly, due in 24 hours), he is able to deliver something eyebrow-raise worthy. What a master at the craft he has remained over four decades. There will be some who bemoan his legal issues, and such trolls have emerged on Goodreads. It is surely they who are the jealous folk, incapable of writing themselves out of a wet paper bag (and, trust me, their troll comments prove that point). Sit back and enjoy this collection! It will not be something you regret.

Kudos, Lord Archer, for offering your fans such a wonderful post-Clifton collection of writing. I have no doubt that you will continue to amaze us with all your ideas for years to come.

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

It Can’t be October Already: A Short Story, by Jeffrey Archer

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Jeffrey Archer, and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Lord Jeffrey Archer continues to prove that he is a wordsmith, showing off those skills in this wonderfully succinct piece. Patrick O’Flynn is caught red-handed as he is in the midst of committing a crime one October night. O’Flynn seems to be well-known to the authorities, all of whom wonder if it can, again, be October. As he is taken in and processed, O’Flynn continues to greet those who know him well. A brief encounter with the courts earn him six months in jail, which seems to play into the larger plan that he has concocted already. After he is sent off the Belmarsh, O’Flynn reveals his larger plan to his cellmate, at which time it all makes sense. Quick witted throughout this short piece, Archer keeps the reader guessing through to the ‘aha’ moment. Perfect for a coffee break and sure to impress a cross-section of readers.

I remain impressed with the work Lord Archer produces (or resurrects) at the drop of a hat. He has a way of pulling the reader in from the early pages and not letting up until the final phrase lingers in the air. While there is little time for character development, Archer does present enough backstory for the reader to feel some connection to O’Flynn. From there, it is the short back and forth as the narrative builds through to the end, where Archer injects his notable twist. Any reader who loves a full novel by this English master will adore the short stories that keep things light and highly entertaining. Well worth the invested time and effort.

Kudos, Lord Archer for this wonderful piece. I look forward to all you have going on and sketched out for future publications. 

Never Stop on the Motorway: A Short Story, by Jeffrey Archer

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Jeffrey Archer, and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Lord Jeffrey Archer has made a name for himself, with spellbinding novels spanning over three decades. He has also proven to be equally talented when it comes to the short story, as is exemplified in this electronic republication of a past piece. Diana is a successful divorced mother of two, who enjoys life whenever possible. During her only childless weekend, she accepts an invitation to a country getaway. After a brief delay, Diana dodges commuter traffic and hopes to make up for lost time. However, she is soon being followed by a large van she cannot shake, its headlights glaring into her rearview mirror. No matter what she does, Diana is unable to lose this crazed driver, who follows her when she executes the most Bond-like driving off the A1. As panic sets in, Diana recollects some recent police alert about a serial rapist who has been targeting single women on the road. With this madman on her bumper, will she be the next victim? Archer weaves a wonderful story that keeps the reader on edge for the short time they are enveloped in this piece. Perfect for that coffee or lunch break, with just enough thrill to keep the heart pumping rapidly.

In all the years I have been reading Lord Jeffrey Archer, I have yet to be underwhelmed. His stories are always full of intrigue and he hashes out his characters with ease. In a short story, it is essential to pull the reader in and have them connect to the character, which Archer does as he spins the backstory needed to feel for Diana. From there, it is the swift development of the plot and some of the subplots that keep the reader pushing forward. Archer has that mastered here, leaving the reader to wonder about this mysterious van driver and how far things will go, even as Diana has her destination in sight. As with many Archer pieces, the end is where it all comes together, pushing the protagonist to the limits before injecting a wonderful twist. This is Archer at his best, bar none.

Kudos, Lord Archer for this wonderful piece, which I cannot remember reading in the past. You have such a way with words and I can only hope you will continue churing out masterful pieces for many years to come.