Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Book Review: Cat O' Nine Tales

I love a good collection of Jeffrey Archer's short stories. His earlier collections contained stories where the end was always an unexpected lurch. This collection doesn't contain quite the same level of surprise ending, but is full of delightfully intricate tales of criminals and their schemes.

At first, I couldn't figure out why each story began in first person. I wondered whether the stories were true or false, but was perplexed because the narrator was incarcerated. Then, I discovered that these 12 stories were set down and honed during Archer's two year stint in prison. Wait! Jeffrey Archer was in prison? I felt so out-of-the-loop.

Initially, I don't really care about an author's background or perspective. If they can weave a good story, that is good enough for me. If I find their personal opinions offensive and intrusive in the writing, I make note to avoid that author in the future. However, after reading, I do often find myself looking for more information on an author and what led them to write a particular book.

In this case, I perused Wikipedia's entry for Jeffrey Archer and discovered that he had, indeed, been convicted of perjury and served two years of his four year sentence. It was amusing to read that he was allowed to leave the British prisons to visit his home and to go to the theater. I skimmed over the political bits, because I really don't care, but I was thrilled to discover that Archer has already completed his sixth book of short stories, And Thereby Hangs a Tale, which is due for release from Amazon on September 14th (darn it all, another book I now want to purchase rather than await the library's acquisition).

According to Archer, these stories were all rooted in fact and then embellished. In Cat O' Nine Tales, Archer tells the story of "The Man Who Robbed His Own Post Office," another story of a man who tried to poison his wife but met with an unexpected end ("Don't Drink the Water"), one about an introverted accountant who attempts to con his way into a fortune at the end of his career ("Charity Begins at Home"), and one about a man who was wooed for his aunt's fortune ("The Wisdom of Solomon"), among others.

Although I would disagree with the cover blurb which billed this book as "Archer at his best," (the previous story collections were better, in my opinion) these are still stories that will keep you turning pages to discover how they play out. The stories will also give you a chuckle at the predictability of man and his desire to glean something for nothing (hmmm, kind of like individuals who wish to read bestsellers, but are unwilling to purchase the book, preferring to wait for the library to carry it).

Now, I just have to talk myself down from another title to add to my Amazon wish list. I'm sure, by now, I could get to the free shipping level, but I doubt I could convince my husband that I NEED to spend more money on more books. I have the first three short story collections (each picked up second hand, over the years). Now, I'll be on the look out for three more Archer short story collections. How far off is Christmas???

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