Most helpful critical review
393 of 411 people found the following review helpful
on 16 May 2011
I have only read one Jeffrey Archer and that was Not a Penny Less, Not a Penny More, the book which restored him to financial security after his bankruptcy and have to say that I was distinctly underwhelmed. I read some of his short stories some years later which I remember being impressed with but since then nothing. So when this dropped through my letter box I really did not know what to expect.
Well, I loved it. I have heard all the rumours that seven editors or more sit down with seven pens and rewrite Archer's books and was never sure if this was true or not, or just one of those apocryphal stories that do the rounds, but I did rather sheer away from his output because of this. Read this through in one sitting and if ever the phrase a 'page-turner' was the right description, then it certainly is applicable here.
Harry Clifton is the son of a docker who had died in mysterious circumstances, and his mother is struggling to bring him up in dire poverty. Harry is fascinated by the docks, plays truant from school and doesn't seem to have much going for him. But he is the possessor of a beautiful, treble voice and this leads him to a choral scholarship at a posh school where he meets and befriends two companions who are going to influence his future life. One of these is Giles Barrington, son of a wealthy businessman and owner of the docks where Harry's father died. As soon as we meet Hugo Barrington and see his reaction to Harry, we are left in no doubt as to the possibilities for intrigue and underhand machinations ahead of us. And so it proves.
The story is told from several viewpoints, Harry, his mother Maisie, Hugo, Old Jack Tar (a mysterious and educated man who is one of Harry's supporters but who lives a reclusive life), Giles Barrington and his sister Emma. Not a huge amount of characterisation or details given in this book, the protagonists are there for one purpose only and that is to be the hook for the story line and to be moved around accordingly. The plot turns are signalled well ahead and are easy to spot before they even happen and the ending of this first volume entirely predictable, but this did not lessen my enjoyment in any way. It is a rattling good yarn, with pacy narrative and once started, almost impossible to put down.