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28 February 2014

Jeffrey Archer: Be Careful What You Wish For

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Yet another cliffhanger ending
Those of you who have read the first three books in the series (you should read them in order) will know that at the end of each one Archer leaves you with a cliffhanger (I call them "Clifton" hangers) of an ending so you have to wait on tenterhooks for the next book in the series to be released find the answer. At the end of the last book ("Best Kept Secret") we were left wondering if Sebastian Clifton or his best friend Bruno had been killed in a fatal car accident. I would like to tell you what happens but can't do so because the outcome is important to the plot of this book.

Harry is getting used to being a best-selling author of detective novels both sides of the Atlantic. Emma is becoming increasingly involved with the decision of the Board of the Barrington Shipping Company to build a luxury liner, the MV Buckingham, at a time when Transatlantic air travel is becoming the normal mode of business travel. Sir Giles Barrington MP is becoming a more important member of the Shadow Cabinet and is planning to marry again after his disastrous marriage to Lady Virginia Fenwick. Harry and Emma’s adopted daughter, Priscilla grows up to become a very talented artist but has never been told the real secret of her birth.

In the previous book the Cliftons foil Don Pedro Martinez's efforts to import a huge amount of near-perfect Nazi counterfeit five pound notes hidden in a Rodin statue. Martinez's vendetta to destroy the Cliftons and Barringtons is central to this book. This time he is ably supported by his sons, a former SS officer, Karl Lunsdorf and the IRA.  He also uses the notorious Major Alex Fisher (who bullied Giles and Harry at school and nearly got Giles killed at Tobruk) as his proxy on the Board of Barrington Shipping to destroy the firm's plans to build the new luxury liner.  Giles' ex wife Lady Virginia Fenwick, is still around and always happy to add her particular brand of poison to the family fortunes.

All of this makes the foundation for exciting times in the lives of the Cliftons and Barringtons. While most of the characters were in the previous book, Archer adds a couple of interesting and influential new ones. Cedric Hardcastle is a dour and successful owner of a Yorkshire based Merchant Bank who becomes a member of the Board of Barrington Shipping and has to decide who to support to become the next chairman of the board: Emma Clifton or Major Alex Fisher? Priscilla's future father-in-law, Robert Bingham, who made his fortune as a manufacturer of fish paste, is another larger than life character who gets involved with the family fortunes.

Jeffrey  Archer is a consummate story-teller and this series continues to display his skills in writing easy-reading and page-turning family-based stories which twist and turn all the time. If you have read the first books in the series this is a must-read which I am sure you will enjoy. My only concern was that most of the baddies in this story are carried over from the previous one.

What about the "Clifton" hanger ending? Of course there is one and you can see it building up during the latter part of the book. Of course it leaves you on tenterhooks until the next book is released in about a year. The series keeps on going and going (this one only took us from 1957 to 1964) so it seems there may still be some more Clifton Chronicles to come.

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