Most helpful critical review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
He's done better...
on 3 January 2014
Cold War adventure set in the 1960s in which the KGB and the CIA are after a religious icon, once the property of the Tsar, which contains a secret treaty concerning the Alaska Purchase which, it turns out, was actually a 99-year lease (hence the time setting) - meaning that if the Russians can get their hands on it, they get Alaska back. At the same time, a former British Army officer has been bequeathed an item that's deposited in a Swiss bank under a false name. There are no prizes for guessing what the item is, and it's not long before said officer becomes embroiled in a game of cat-and-mouse with the CIA and the KGB, both of whom are desperate to get hold of the icon for the reasons outlined above.
Personally, I think Jeffrey Archer does better at short stories, and of his various books this isn't, in my view, one of his best. It's all rather predictable (the exact nature of the officer's flatmate's job, for example, was not a great surprise when finally revealed) although it does at times it takes a turn for the macabre (if you have ever wondered how a KGB agent would go about disposing of a body in Zurich, the answer can be found here).
Archer's take on the Alaska Purchase bears a resemblance to the British 99-year lease on the New Territories, which formed the basis for the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration that guaranteed that all of Hong Kong would be handed over to China in 1997. Given that this novel was published two years later, it's hard not to think that he had this in mind while he was writing this novel.