Saturday, August 8, 2009

"Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less" Worth the price

Jeffrey Archer's first novel starts off slowly but then picks up speed in the second two thirds of the story.

We read of Harvey Metcalfe who was born in 1909, the son of poor Polish emigrants. He rose from a pauper to the president of a bank by the time he was age 35. However, much of his accomplishments were done by bribes and shady deals.

Harvey sees opportunity in oil. He buys a company in England and puts out the word that his company has struck oil. Stephen Bradley, a mathematical genius, Dr. Robert Oakley, a society doctor, Jean-Pierre Lamanns an art dealer and James Birgsley, an English lord all invest heavily in the company and are financially ruined.

Bradley won't go meekly and contacts the other major investors and sets up a scheme for getting their money back and obtaining retribution from Metcalfe.

Archer does a wonderful job with dialogue, language and characterization. He creates both suspense and humor while describing how each man will use his specialty to take revenge on Metcalfe.

The novel is somewhat autobiographical in that Archer was close to bankruptcy and left public office at a young age to write this novel in order to repay his creditors.

The timing of the story is renewed with the Bernard Madoff scandal and the similarity in names of Metcalfe.
I enjoyed the novel a second time as I compared the two and thought of the fun it would have been if Madoff had come to a similar end.
Fun read, good for a rainy weekend.

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