Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Prisoner of Birth

From Jeffrey Archer's last few novels, I've been getting the impression that he has run out of story ideas and is simply recycling past stories in new settings. That impression doesn't change with his latest book Prisoner of Birth, which has essentially the same storyline as the author's first book Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less - with some Shawshank Redemption thrown in for good measure. The good thing is that Archer's storytelling skills themselves haven't diminished that much and he is able to spin a good yarn that keeps us turning the pages.

The book dives into the plot right away as Danny Cartwright is celebrating with his fiance Beth and her brother Bernie - who also happens to be his best friend - at a bar. Four upper-class men create trouble and then accost Danny and Bernie in an alley behind the bar. Beth goes to get help and when she returns, she sees that Bernie's been stabbed and is now dead. Danny is arrested by the police and after the trial, where the 4 men serve as witnesses, is sent to jail for the murder of Bernie. Determined to extract revenge on the 4 men when he gets out, Danny tries to make the best of his time in prison. And a few prisoners who come to believe that he is innocent, are willing to help him.

Archer's stint in prison probably gave him an inside look at England's prison system and that knowledge helps him as he describes Danny's time behind bars. While there a few mentions of gangs and the like, the proceedings are kept light for the most part. Danny's escape is a little far-fetched but the fact that the novel is presented as a modern-day update to The Count of Monte Cristo gives us an idea about what's coming and that makes it a little easier to swallow. The revenge itself - the most crowd-pleasing part of the book - feels too short. Danny's plan is somewhat complicated but consists of just one long act before his victims catch on to him. While the setup is long, the payoff feels a little rushed. The book ends with another trial but a character who was in the sidelines before moves centerstage and makes it a lot more interesting than the first.


At 10:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was a good read. I felt it was a Jeffrey Archer spin on "A Tale of Two Cities". Revenge and Poetic Justice are intrinsic to his books.

At 7:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Archer has always sought to please his fan base. His writings have long been adored and I don't think he seeks new readers or fans to broaden his appeal.

As such, all of Archer's books had transcended time well and even when read today Kane & Abel is master class fiction - for fans or not.

At 11:39 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

inadeeptrance, i agree with the good read part though I don't remember much about 'tale of two cities' :)

anon, i guess he has enuf readers to make all his books bestsellers and so has no need to broaden his appeal. but he pleases his fan base with each book and not many authors can claim even that :)


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