And Thereby Hangs a Tale

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 December, 2010, 12:00am

And Thereby Hangs a Tale
by Jeffrey Archer
Pan MacMillan HK$91

The title is from Shakespeare. Jeffrey Archer cites The Taming of the Shrew, but he could have quoted As You Like It. This disputed source is oddly appropriate: Archer actually tells you which of his 15 new tales are original and which he's been told by someone else. It's a wise precaution: he was once accused of stealing a story that he had judged in a writing competition. It's a mixed bag. Most are drawn from upper middle-class British life, and feature twists that are either devilish or hellish depending on your taste. Opener Stuck on You is pleasantly diverting: a posh take on the heist story, its pleasure comes from the deft final unveiling. Something similar happens in High Heels, which updates Double Indemnity. It begins with someone like Jeffrey Archer being told the story at Lord's cricket ground, and ends with him modestly suggesting a much better ending. Nevertheless there is simply no excuse for Blind Date, whose woeful conclusion is screamed by a terrible titular pun. A Good Eye is a plodding tale of art trade shenanigans whose twist is simply a large sum of money. And Thereby Hangs a Tale: good, bad and plain ugly.