After following the characters in Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles for years (one character was named after me, but only my first name appears in one of the short stories), it’s a relief to have a few shorts without cliffhangers in Archer’s new book of short stories – Tell Tale.
In fourteen short stories, Archer targets a range of characters and lifestyles, from the bank executive forced to retire months before his pension, to the iron monger who became a theologian. In one story, “The Holiday of a Lifetime,” Archer offers the reader a choice of endings, and two well-known literary characters pop up in “A Wasted Hour” and “A Good Toss to Lose.” Demonstrating his talent for writing clever plots, Jeffrey Archer begins and ends his collection with stories confined to 100 words; the others are varying lengths, but each has a surprising O’Henry twist at the end.
Archer’s newest collection of short stories is as entertaining as his novels, and he ends with a teaser for his fans – the first four chapter of his next novel – “Heads You Win” to be published next year – I can’t wait.
The third book in Jeffery Archer’s saga of the Clifton and Barrington families – Best Kept Secret – resolves the inheritance issues from the second book, and introduces the next generation. Sebastian, son of Emma Barrington and Harry Clifton, manages to uphold the family drama with his own escapades; one involves Third Reich money laundered through a South American villain. Beware – the ending is another cliff hanger, but since the principals of soap operas rarely die, the probable outcome is predictable.
My library request was granted the day before I was to leave on a trip. Thinking I would savor the easy drama on my red-eye flight, I checked out the “hot pick” (due back in 7 days) – but couldn’t resist and read the book in a sitting the night before leaving. Fast-paced fun family drama with a few diversions in the simple plotting. If you are a fan, this book is the midpoint in the series, and Archer doesn’t keep readers waiting long for the next installment.
Be Careful What You Wish For
Almost a year later, the next installment of the Clifton Chronicles has appeared, with Harry a successful best-selling novelist and Emma as Chair of the Board. This time someone significant does die unexpectedly in the middle of the story, but the drama continues as the Barringtons have their first luxury liner ship ready to sail. The family may narrowly escape a financial destruction but the family nemesis, Martinez, may be leaving behind two sons bent for revenge. Some of the principals may not survive the final pages with an IRA bomb imbedded in a vase of lilies. – until the next installment.
Although Archer fills in the back story for those who either have not read the first few books – or for those, like me, with bad memories of who is who, I’m starting to think it would be more fun to read them in tandem – a marathon read that would take one cliffhanger into the next without as much of a wait. Then I might remember who the good guys and bad guys are.
Reviews for Books One and Two:
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.