Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
Archer's ( Kane and Abel ) talent as a raconteur is evident in these 12 distinctive short stories, all of which have surprise endings. Many center on human failings such as jealousy, obstinacy, pettiness or prejudice; 10 are based on ``known incidents'' that Archer has ``embellished.'' An almost reportorial, straightforward style actually enhances each concluding jolt. In ``The Perfect Murder,'' a married man kills his mistress, cunningly implicates someone else, and ensures that hapless person's conviction. ``A La Carte'' concerns Mark Hapgood, who grudgingly works as a lowly hotel porter to please his father, then unexpectedly becomes a celebrated hotel chef. The amorous, contented female narrator of ``Just Good Friends'' turns out to be a cat. The stunning ``Christinia Rosenthal'' shows the needless tragedy that results when a girl's anti-Semitic parents oppose her marriage to a rabbi's son. Though the plots are rather slight, Archer's understanding of human nature, and his talent for surprise endings, make this volume a must for his fans. First serial to Penthouse and New Woman; Literary Guild alternate; major ad/promo; author tour. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Book Review
The latest and least of English politician/best-selling authors (Disraeli, Churchill. . .Archer) returns with a flyweight collection of original short stories featuring trick endings. On Christmas Eve with three glasses of cheer under your belt, you might be kind enough to call these 12 tales by the author of Kane and Abel, First Among Equals, etc., ""O. Henryish."" But then again, O. Henry never cheated to arrive at his surprise endings, as Archer does in ""Just Good Friends,"" where he anthropomorphizes a cat beyond fairness and credibility to get away with the twist. And O. Henry grew a majority of his stories out of his own fertile imagination, while Archer, as he explains in a note, bases ten of these pieces on ""known incidents""--which no doubt explains the awkward, Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not tone of several, including: ""A La Carte,"" in which the son of an auto mechanic grows up to be a master chef; ""Colonel Bullfrog,"" in which a guard at a WW II Japanese POW camp grows up to be an industrial tycoon; and ""Not the Real Thing,"" in which a British lad grows up to be the world's premier sewer-designer. Three of the tales do rise above the mediocre: two mystery/suspense-tinged stories, ""A Chapter of Accidents,"" in which a cuckolded husband plots the Don Juan's death, and ""Perfect Murder,"" in which a murderer attends the trial of a man accused of one of the murderer's own slayings; and ""Checkmate,"" which works up some nice sexual tension within a chess/seduction milieu. Archer does manage to save worst for last, however, with the embarrassingly maudlin tale of a rabbi's lament (""Christina Rosenthal""). Mostly arbitrary or predictable twists and pedestrian storytelling add up to a poor show. Of course, the biggest--and most likely--twist here will be if Archer's many fans take to these leavings with enough gusto to push them onto the best-seller lists. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.