“While there may not be a book in every one of us, there is so often a damned good short story.”
So says Jeffrey Archer in his introduction to this book and he should know. Though he has written more bestselling novels than I care to count, I love him best for his short stories. A Twist in the Tale is my favorite collection, followed closely by A Quiver Full of Arrows. I finally got down to reading his newest book of short stories, And Thereby Hangs a Tale. Fifteen shorts make up this collection and more than half of them are true stories, or so we’re told. I think it’s better to treat this book entirely as a work of fiction. It’s more enjoyable that way.
The first story in the book ‘Stuck on You’ immediately takes you in. This is classic Jeffrey Archer. The gentle start, the slow build up of tension, the nail biting suspense and finally his trademark, why-didn’t-I-see-that-coming ending. I actually liked this story the best, but others like, ‘Where There's a Will’ and ‘Double-cross’ were great too. However, some of the stories seemed very contrived and the writing laboured. I didn’t think much of the last story and I could have sworn that I’d heard or read "Better the Devil You Know" somewhere else. It has the quality of a parable that’s been told and retold several times, in several different ways.
And Thereby Hangs a Tale is definitely not Archer’s best work. It has neither the sharpness of A Twist in the Tale nor the intensely engaging quality of his novels. Yet, it is very readable and the bits that are good are really good. Not a classic that stayed with me, but a good way to pass a lazy afternoon.