If an author's work is supposed to get better as they age and gain experience, like a red wine or stilton; I wondered how "The Man from St Petersburg" was going to come across? This book, one of Follett's earliest, was first published in 1982; long before the success of his "The Pillars of the Earth", made him a household name and this binding was re-issued in 2011 making full use of his more recent successes to get readers.
I'd loved "The Pillars of the Earth" and then devoured it's long awaited sequel "World Without End", so when I saw "The Man from St Petersburg" reprint I picked it up eagerly with high expectations. Lets face it, who can blame an author or publisher cashing in on recent triumphs by re-printing earlier works to feed the reading public's hunger?
No one! Not unless of course you judge the earlier work's quality significantly less than the more recent output. Sadly, this is what I felt about "The Man from St Petersburg". I was left feeling unfulfilled and cheated in some way; the book, for me, lacked substance and much of style and depth I'd come to expect from Follett's recent work.
Marketing this book as being in the same league as "The Pillars of the Earth" is at best seriously misleading. The glowing and fulsome cover comments on my 2011 re-print, relate, not to this work, but to better more recent titles. I know this is what ad men call 'creative marketing', but for me it is verging on fraud. It's a sad inditement on today's society when buying a book you have to remember 'caveat emptor': "let the buyer beware". Authors and publishers are responsible for their quality control, and they should beware chasing easy sales today at the risk of weakening a brand's long term reputation and bank-ability.
Although I'll happily buy more of Ken Follett's books as they are published, I will go to my library to explore his back catalogue further and thus, save my money.