Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Book Review: Best Kept Secret by Jeffrey Archer

I am an avid Jeffrey Archer reader. Kane & Abel, Prodigal Daughter, Prisoner of Birth, Path to Glory - I have loved them all over the years. When I first heard the concept of the "Clifton Chronicles", I could not be more excited. A 5 novel saga over a 100 years, 20 years at a time - sweeping through the 20th century and World Wars into the 21st, what more could I want from the Master Story teller.

I have to say though, having finished "Best Kept Secret" - the 3rd of 5 (potentially 7 books now!),this is not upto the standards I am used to with Jeffrey Archer. The book is still mostly entertaining, but seems to be more and more dragged out as you go along. Like an annoying TV series, there is always a cliffhanger at the end meant to be a "hook" for the reader to want the next installment. The story itself becomes dull in places, making me almost want to skip over some chapters altogether. Characters are never grey with Jeffrey Archer, they are either good or evil, but in this 3rd book I struggle to understand why certain characters are even introduced if not just to pad the story, fill pages and sell more books! For e.g., why would a complete hero like Giles marry the totally shallow and evil Virginia? If there was at least some sort of explanation!

Irrespective of the actual storyline, what I do enjoy about novels set in historic periods is picking out the social  or political and even literary events of the time. Here too, it was fun to see - through everyday talks between ordinary people - Winston Churchill's return to power in 1951, a brief mention of Agatha Christie who is already famous in the 1940s and 1950s, the place of women in society... However, do not read it to know about history of the time. All of this is mentioned only in passing and the 1952 coronation of the Queen is left out altogether!

So - would I now go get the next one in the series (Be Careful What You Wish For, published in March 2014) ? Possibly. I still am loyal to "Brand Jeffrey Archer" and his marketing ploy of ending each book with a cliffhanger hook to the next is wearing thin but works. And oh - while on the topic of marketing, "Be Careful What You Wish For" has a trailer, similar to what you'd see for a new movie. Book marketing is changing fast and I could write an entire post on that - but I digress!

For now though I am going to my bookshelf to get one of Archer's older novels or short stories to remember why I enjoy him so much in the first place!