Only Time Will Tell

If you like cliffhangers, Jeffrey Archer’s Only Time Will Tell has them in every chapter. Unfortunately, the ending also leaves you hanging; this is the first book of a trilogy in The Clifton Chronicles.

Each character narrates his or her own chapter, dropping the line at the end to be picked up midway through the next chapter in another voice. Harry Clifton anchors the action as a young poor but talented Pip-like character, who has secret benefactors as well as hidden tormentors. Harry’s miserable life changes for the better when he wins a choral scholarship to a prestigious prep school where he meets his best friend (who may also secretly be his half-brother).

The plot twists a few times, with the rich villain getting the upper hand now and then, until good overcomes evil. Harry manages to study his way all the way to Oxford acceptance, but throughout Harry’s young life, the mystery of his background lurks in the wings, promising to derail his success. Is he the son of the shipping magnate who may have killed the man he thinks of as his father? or not?

The supporting cast is predictable – the sacrificing mother, the elder mentor, the genius buddy, the beautiful maiden – and the plot is downright soap opera. To tell more would spoil the adventure. But I was hooked in the first pages, and never stopped until I read the book straight through into the night. Archer’s ending was clever – with World War II looming – a seasonal cliffhanger that could hold its own with any television series. I can’t wait for the next book to find out what happens to Harry.

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