Heads You Win, by Jeffrey Archer

Nine stars

Lord Jeffrey Archer remains one of the eminent writers of my time, able to craft brilliant novels that can be enjoyed years after the ink dries on their publication. Archer develops his books with pages of captivating text and believable dialogue. On the docks of Leningrad in 1968, Alexander Karpenko lives under the iron fist of the Soviet regime. No choice or decision goes unwatched by the KGB and punishment is usually brutal. When Alexander’s father is involved in a workplace ‘accident’, young Alexander and his mother, Elena, know that it is time to make a break for it. At the docks, they must rush to choose a means of getting out of Russia, with two shipping crates before them; one bound for England, the other for America. They make a hasty choice and hide away, before the crate can be loaded for departure to another land. It is here that Archer takes the story and turns it on its head. Following two threads, the narrative takes the reader along with Alex and Elena to America or with Sasha and Elena to England. Alex experiences many stumbling blocks when he makes it to the shores of New York, trying to find a place for both he and Elena to situate themselves and rise from the ashes of Soviet oppression. While he scrabbles to get enough money to feed them, Alex discovers that his hard work can pay off, beginning by selling produce at a local stand and amassing wealth through grit and determination. On the other hand, Sasha and Elena land in England and use his sharp wit to earn a place in a prestigious school before attending Cambridge, where the political bug bites him and he is able to explore a work of power and intrigue. Both men discover love, family, and a rise to the top, but neither can help but wonder what might have happened if they’d chosen ‘the other crate’. Lord Archer is here to tell the reader exactly what might have happened, offering sensational parallels in the lives of these two, as well as contrasting their great differences. An ingenious approach to storytelling that Archer perfected, with a sensational twist at the end. Highly recommended to those who love Archer’s work, as well as the reader who enjoys historical fiction with a few twists along the way!

Those familiar with Jeffrey Archer’s work will know that his work is both highly entertaining and filled with layers of rich narrative. The stories are neither superficial, nor are they weighed down with minutiae. However, there is something intensely captivating about them that makes them as unique as anything I have ever read. The Alex/Sasha character is one that fans of the author will have seen many times before, but is more of an amalgamation of many, rather than a copy of one in particular. Rising from the depths of poverty and communist oppression, Alex/Sasha finds himself grasping onto the chance of a new life and makes the most of it. What makes this character even more interesting, is the contrast that comes from his alter ego—for lack of a better word—and how the contrasting decisions lead both men in completely different directions, though their paths seem destined to lead to the same ultimate goal. The story is full of character development and weaves a powerful backstory for both Alex/Sasha, though the reader must pay close attention to notice the parallels and divergences throughout the narratives. There are obviously a number of supporting characters throughout the piece, most especially Elena Karpenko, who is able to see her son rise to greatness as she does so herself. Elena bides her time but does not sit idly by, as she creates an empire all her own and proves to be almost a second protagonist in the larger story. The others offer the needed narrative mortar to keep the story moving and standing strong, though Archer has rarely had trouble making someone who graced the pages of his books appear full of life and active in pushing the story towards its needed conclusion. The concept for this piece is brilliant, pulling on many of Archer’s past successful novels. Be it Kane and Abel, The Clifton Chronicles, or many of the other pieces he has penned over the decades, Archer’s flavourful storytelling comes alive yet again, in what may be his best single novel work in years. Telling a political, social, and emotional story of one boy’s ultimate choice to flee oppression, Archer offers two distinct paths that could have been taken. The greatest trouble for the reader as they progress through this epic piece is to decide which one is the better life. I am not sure I could choose quite yet, but that might be the ultimate Archer gift, as it keeps the story lingering well after it’s been completed.

Kudos, Lord Archer, for a spellbinding novel. I could not expect anything less from such a master storyteller!

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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The Luck of the Irish: A Year of Short Stories, by Jeffrey Archer

Eight 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. I just received the November selection, another short read packed full of interesting tidbits that Archer weaves together effortlessly. Liam Casey grew up in County Cork, sure that he could master life at every turn. Refusing to accept the sage advice of his father, Liam makes his way through a few menial jobs before finding his niche in property sales. On a holiday in Majorca, Liam stumbles upon a fellow Irishman whose company is thriving. They soon join forces and have much success as the market booms. When Liam eventually takes on the business for himself and acquires his own partner, they turned their eye towards a lucrative business opportunity. With backing from an Irish bank, Liam can see his riches growing. However, local Majorcan elections prove to be highly troublesome for this latest property development. Facing complete obliteration of his finances, Liam will need to use all his Irish luck to pull out a miracle. Might he have a spare clover in his back pocket? An interesting Archer piece, sure to pique the attention of those who have long enjoyed his writing.

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. Now I await each instalment on a monthly basis, I can hope to find gems amidst all the reading I undertake each year. This was another decent piece, though its brevity makes it harder to become fully engaged or connected with the characters. Liam Casey seems to be quite in tune with what he wants and stops at nothing to get it, even if it means cutting some corners. He has a determined way about his, though does not suffer fools (or disinterested women) and keeps impediments out of his way. Archer pushes Casey to his limits in this piece, showing how his Irish upbringing may be both a blessing and downfall in one breath. There are others who pepper the pages of this short piece, though they seem only vessels to get through to the end of the piece swiftly. The narrative of this piece was decent, pushing things along effectively and it left the reader able to devour the story in a single sitting. The plot is similar to many of Archer’s stories, where money rules and all else fades into the background. Fans of the author’s work will likely enjoy this piece, though I would not call it one of his sensational pieces of writing.

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

Other Blighters’ Efforts: A Year of Short Stories, by Jeffrey Archer

Eight 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. I just received the October piece, which proves to be yet another entertaining selection, perfect for a short daytime break. Henry Pascoe is the First Secretary at the British High Commission on Aranga, a small island community off the beaten path. In hopes of bringing something to the locals, Pascoe has developed the idea of a swimming pool that the children might use, with much of its sponsorship from the British Government. Working with the local branch manager of Barclays, Pascoe utilises currency exchanges and local government instability to pad the funds for his ‘Swimming Pool’ account, in hopes of speeding the process along. When, on a brief trip from London, a representative of the Foreign Office gives the thumbs up to the project, Pascoe rushes forward to get things moving. However, there seems to be endless stalling and dithering, both in London and throughout the Foreign Office. Pascoe agrees to take a trek with Aranga’s president on an annual trip, only to learn some interesting news, all of which could impact the swimming pool and this pipe dream. An interesting Archer piece, sure to pique the attention of those who have long enjoyed his writing.

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. Now I await each instalment on a monthly basis, I can hope to find gems amidst all the reading I undertake each year. This was another decent piece, working on the theme of British support for its smaller countries under the Commonwealth. Pascoe works diligently to bring this small project to life, only to have others constantly tossing roadblocks in the way. The reader will see the man’s passion, even if it is not always revealed in productive ways, as well as showing his passion for all things local. Pascoe learns that his mid-level position leaves him yelling into the wind, though this does not go unnoticed at the most opportune time. There is little time for much impact by secondary characters, though the banter found within the pages of this piece does help shape the story and Pascoe’s reactions throughout. The story builds on the dramatic revelations these characters offer and keeps the reader enthralled. A wonderful standalone piece that will entertain readers just long enough to finish a warm mug of something (or some such beverage), Archer proves himself as the master.

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 Accused: A Play, by Jeffrey Archer

Eight stars

Lord Jeffery Archer has long been called a master storyteller, no matter what he chooses to write. While I have devoured many of his novels and short stories, this was the first of his stage plays that I have read, which ended up being quite entertaining. Dr. Patrick Sherwood stands accused of killing his wife, Elizabeth. There is much evidence that is presented by the prosecution, including an alleged affair with one of his nurses. However, while the evidence seems strong, the defence is not prepared to let it stand without being refuted. Dr. Sherwood is a respected cardio surgeon and has access to many medications, including the one that may have caused his wife’s death. Additionally, one cannot discount that the potassium chloride might have come from a household item. As both sides present their evidence, the jury must wait to deliver a verdict. By Act Three, it’s time for a verdict to be rendered, which offers the audience a chance to participate in the proceedings. Based on their vote, a verdict is delivered and the fallout ensues. A wonderful play that will keep the reader (or, one could suppose, the audience member) enthralled to the very end. Guilty or Innocent, YOU decide!

Archer is a master with words and is able to pull the reader in from the early stages. While the story is best told as a stage play, even reading this script does not dampen the action and the well-developed story that comes to pass over three acts. Archer uses not only some key asides to open each day of the trial, as seen between the legal minds, but also a wonderful to and fro in the direct testimony and cross-examination. Archer develops his characters through their delivery of evidence and the narrative embedded in their descriptive words. The play is wonderfully entertaining and the format forces the reader/audience member to pay close attention so that they might choose the fate of Dr. Sherwood in the latter stages. It reminds me of a play m y father wrote and had published years ago, though his had more of a humorous mockery of a certain fairy tale. Still, the ‘two-pronged ending’ leaves the audience entertained, no matter what happens and permits an interesting alternate ending, dependent only on the gut feeling of those watching. I’ll have to find more of Archer’s stage work and enjoy it soon.

Kudos, Lord Archer, for such a great play. Yet another form of writing at which you excel!

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

Members Only: A Year of Short Stories, by Jeffrey Archer

Eight 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. I just received my September story and could not wait to get started. Robin Chapman receives a golf ball in his Christmas cracker one year, which begins a life-long love of golf. While he can barely hit the small white sphere when he begins, Robin studies the sport and soon is representing his local club at competitions around Britain. After falling in love, Robin makes the surprising move to Jersey, where he joins the prestigious Royal Jersey Golf Club, or at least puts in an application. After meeting the committee, he is put on a fifteen-year waiting list. Robin reluctantly accepts this delay and undertakes building up his family’s dry cleaning business and serving as an emergency sailor when the need arises. With the German invasion of Jersey during World War II, Robin is forced to bow down to his captors, but finds himself on the right side of a decision to save his life. At the end of the War and with two children of his own, Robin receives word from the Royal Jersey Golf Club. Might this be the news he has wanted for so long? Archer is brilliant in his monthly story delivery. I am always eager to share my sentiments on this author’s classic writing that seems able to stand the test of time. Recommended for those who love a good Archer short story or any reader who needs something to fill a little time in their day!

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. Now I await each instalment on a monthly basis, I can hope to find gems amidst all the reading I undertake each year. This was another winner, taking the reader back into that inter-war period in England. Robin Chapman serves as a highly entertaining protagonist, whose life takes him into many roles, all of which he masters. Even with a short piece, Chapman is able to capture the reader’s attention from the early going and interest in him does not wane. Surrounded by a number of secondary character who complement him in his various endeavours, Chapman helps elevate those around him for just long enough to push the narrative in a great direction. The story utilises these characters effectively and keeps the reader enthralled until the final sentence. The story is on par with some of Archer’s other great stories, following a recipe that has brought much success. Archer appears to enjoy thrusting his characters into a ‘forward-moving through history’ formula, which serves to have them influence events while making decisions that shape their own lives. This has been well-developed and keeps the reader enthralled as they try to guess the direction the narrative will take. A wonderful standalone piece that will entertain readers just long enough to finish a warm mug of something (or some such beverage), Archer proves himself as the master.

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

Don’t Drink the Water: The Year of Short Stories, 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. I recently received my August story and could not wait to get started. Richard Barnsley is an astute businessman with strong ties in Russia. When the chance to solidify a major deal crosses his path, Richard is not about to let it slip through his fingers, with a senior member of the Cabinet and the Russian President prepared to attend the signing ceremony. Back in England, Barnsley discovers that his wife of many years has apparently decided to file for divorce, thought she has not come out to tell him. Worried about the entire situation, Barnsley agrees to take his wife on his business trip to Russia. He purposely fails to let her know that the local water is not potable and that she need only consume the bottled variety on offer. Barnsley also concocts an elaborate scheme to ensure her bottled water is always replaced with that which flows from the tap, thereby ensuring her demise. While sightseeing, Richard’s wife comes down with something, leaving her achy and feverish. Might this be the ultimate act to ensure no division of assets at divorce? Only time will tell, as long as no one drinks the water! Archer pens yet another wonderful story, keeping the reader thinking and the story flowing through to its final zinger. Recommended for those who love a good Archer short story or any reader who needs something to fill a little time in their day!

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. Now I await each instalment on a monthly basis, I can hope to find gems amidst all the reading I undertake each year. This was definitely one of the more exciting pieces I have read of late, pitting a man who refuses to lose anything against an unsuspecting wife who wants nothing more than to enjoy herself on holiday. Told in an interesting way that prefaces the piece with a version of events that makes Archer the story’s actual narrator, the reader is treated to something quite intriguing through to the very end of this story. The characters proves interesting and the story flowed well, as Archer is prone to ensure it does in his shorter pieces. Archer is able to impress and entertain in equal measure, something that is rare in the pieces I have come across over the last number of years. I have enjoyed all these stories and am eager for the next turn of the calendar, when I can be assured yet another gen.

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 Endgame: The Year of Short Stories, by Jeffrey Archer

Eight 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. I recently discovered that I overlooked the December (2017) story in my reading, which is an interesting piece that pits family members against one another and shows just how charitable they can be in times of crisis. Cornelius Barrington has always suspected his family to be more interested in his money than anything else. Over one of their weekly chess matches, Barrington devises a plan with his solicitor, Frank Vintcent, to turn the tables on his greedy family. Barrington and Vintcent draw up paperwork to show that this well-to-do man is actually on the brink of bankruptcy. Reactions are quick to come in, though no one is entirely sure if they can help their esteemed family member with his financial woes. Barrington continues with the charade, putting not only his estate up for sale, but liquidating most of his belongings at auction. Barrington generously invites family and close friends to bid on items of interest to them. It is at this point that their greed and need to be at the trough becomes readily apparent, forcing Cornelius Barrington to see just how far people are willing to go to deflect the need to help, while surrounding themselves with riches. Archer pens yet another wonderful piece that keeps the reader thinking and the story flowing through to its final zinger. Recommended for those who love a good Archer short story or any reader who needs something to fill a little time in their day!

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. Now I await each instalment on a monthly basis, I can hope to find gems amidst all the reading I undertake each year. This was definitely one of the more complex and should likely not have been ready without the aid of my morning caffeine boost, as I needed to be sharp and follow the quick wit that Cornelius Barrington adds to the story throughout its development. That being said, Archer develops some interesting character traits for Barrington, this mastermind who coaxes his family into their downfall and shows that they are but a grubby lot, interested in riches over family honour. The supporting characters, individuals who seek to better themselves at the cost of others, proved interesting and their excuses kept my eyebrows raised throughout this piece. Truly, one could not ask for a more deceitful lot. The story was of the perfect length to remind myself why I enjoy Archer’s work so much. Archer is able to impress and entertain in equal measure, something that is rare in the pieces I have come across over the last number of years. I have enjoyed all these pieces and am eager for the next turn of the calendar, when I can be assured yet another short story.

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

Crime Pays: The Year of Short Stories, by Jeffrey Archer

Eight 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. July’s story is an interesting piece on crime and one that will get the reader thinking throughout. Kenny Merchant is a superior thief, or so he likes to think. After planning and calculating a shoplifting arrest, he readily admits to his crimes, as well as a number of others. Voluntarily agreeing to a prison term, Merchant begins researching his next scheme. It is much more complex, involving a significant piece of legislation recently passed in British Parliament. After his release, Merchant flies out of England and leaves the authorities on opposing sides of the world scratching their heads. Years later, he is brought to justice and faces a trial on a new set of criminal charges. It is here that Merchant is able to show just how calculating he can be and what a dedicated criminal can do to ensure that crime pays high dividends. Archer has done it again with this wonderful short story, sure to impress those who enjoy a little escape from the every day. Highly recommended for Archer fans and those who enjoy shorter pieces of writing to enjoy over a cuppa!

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. Now I await each instalment on a monthly basis, I can hope to find gems amidst all the reading I undertake each year. This was definitely one of the more compelling and complex reads (due to all the information being presented, not writing style). Archer does well to present Kenny Merchant as a straightforward man with many calculating thoughts. His schemes are simple enough that he can undertake them alone, but also complicated enough that the reader ought to pay attention in order to understand each cog in the larger criminal wheel. I enjoyed the banter between Merchant and the authorities, seeking to unravel what’s taken place. The story was just long enough that I could remind myself why I enjoy Archer’s work so much, as I let my brain follow whatever he has to say and suspend any disbelief. Archer is able to impress and entertain in equal measure, something that is rare in the pieces I have come across over the last number of years. I have enjoyed all these pieces and am eager for the next turn of the calendar, when I can be assured yet another short story.

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 Queen’s Birthday Telegram: The Year of Short Stories, by Jeffrey Archer

Eight 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. June’s story is brief, but very much a winner, when Albert Webber receives a telegram from from the Queen on the celebration of his one hundredth birthday. This is in addition to all the fanfare the town and his family have to celebrate this milestone event. When, three years on, Albert’s wife celebrates this same cake-worthy event, there is nothing that arrives. Hurt on her behalf, Albert waits for a time before placing a call to determine if there’s been a mix-up. A few transfers and cross-references later, it all becomes clear and Albert cannot help but chuckle. A wonderful re-release for Archer fans that can be read in a few moments, with a smile factor that will surely linger.

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. Now I await each instalment on a monthly basis, hoping they will be as interesting as the first half of the collection. This was definitely one of the faster reads, one that I remember devouring in a past collection. Even with a lack of character development, Archer pushes a wonderful story along to the reader, adding his trademark zinger by the final sentence. 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

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