Jeffrey Archer didn’t disappoint in Twelve Red Herrings. He’s one of my favourite story tellers, but then I’m sure I have said that somewhere on this blog before. I won’t go through all the stories, however, the first one, Trial and Error, is testament to what one can achieve with patience and tenacity.
Imagine being accused of a murder when there is no body and evidence exists to show that you did hit someone hard enough to kill them? Well, this is what happens to Richard Cooper, who is nearly swindled out of his family’s business by a hired consultant, along with Richard’s own wife.
Then there is the story of Consuela, in Cheap at Half the Price, who has her heart set on a necklace with a million dollar price tag. I believe the point of this story is the magnitude of what a woman can achieve when she puts her mind to work at the expense of an unsuspecting male…or two.
I found the tension level extremely high in Do Not Pass Go, which is the tale of Hamid Zebari, a native of Iraq who almost got trapped in Baghdad. Zebari escaped being captured by the airport security through the simple, yet ingenious actions of the Pan-Am flight crew when their aircraft developed mechanical problems and was grounded. See my favourite lines from this story below.
He stared out of the porthole as the aircraft taxied past the terminal he knew so well. He could see the armed guards stationed on the roof and at the doors leading onto the tarmac. He prayed to Allah, he prayed to Jesus, he even prayed to President Reagan.
Never Stop on the Motor Way provided a nail-biting read. A woman on the way to stay with friends in the country stops on the side of the road after having hit a cat. She knows it’s dangerous, being that there is a serial rapist and murderer on the loose. She gets back in her car, and the driver of a black van starts waving at her and then dazzling her with his headlights. This continues until there is a high speed chase and Diana ends up crashing into her friends’ house.
The driver of the van had no intention of harming her. In fact, had he not chased her down, Diana would have been in a serious situation, since she left her car as an open invitation while she examined the cat. I leave you to draw your own conclusion as to what might otherwise have been her fate.
I won’t go through all the stories, but had to mention a cunning lawyer, Sir Matthew Roberts, in An Eye for an Eye. He tricked a supposedly blind woman who was accused of killing her husband into giving away the fact that she had not lost her vision. Imagine seeing someone dislodge and clean a body part while you watched? Gross, I tell you!
And then there was the final story, One Man’s Meat. Only Archer could pull of telling a story with four possible endings. Of course, being an Archerholic I had to read all four, though he invited the reader to ‘select one and consider that your own particular ending.’
Truth be told, I didn’t find this story to be among his best, but nonetheless the variations made interesting reading.
Overall comments: Most of the stories, I enjoyed thoroughly. There were a few that took a scenic route to the ending and did not hold my interest 100% of the time. However, I know that not every story can or should be executed at breakneck speed.