From Publishers Weekly
Even though Archer (Sons of Fortune
) grounds his international art-thievery thriller in the events of 9/11, this leisurely paced, tepid effort has a musty feel. It's September 10, 2001, and Lady Victoria Wentworth is sitting in spacious Wentworth Hall considering the sad state of family fortunes when a female intruder slips in, slashes her throat and cuts off her ear. The next day in New York, art expert Anna Petrescu heads to her job as art wrangler for wealthy magnate Bryce Fenston of Fenston Finance. The pair's offices are in the Twin Towers, and when disaster strikes, each sees the tragedy as an opportunity to manipulate a transaction scheduled to transfer ownership of a legendary Van Gogh painting, Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear
, from the Wentworth estate to the larcenous Fenston. The initially intriguing character, hit-woman and ex-gymnast Olga Krantz, turns out to be too lightweight, both physically and fictionally, to garner strong interest in anything other than her deadly skills with a kitchen knife. Lord Archer has been busy for the past five years or so serving half of a four-year prison sentence for perjury and writing a series of books about his prison experience; his first novel in seven years disappoints. (Mar.)
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Archer's legion of fans have been waiting for seven years for his new thriller, and its success will probably depend on how well it sits with them. Some readers may sink right into the murderous plot involving--you guessed it--valuable works of art. Others may read several chapters, get the gist of the story and its characters (plucky heroine, on the run from homicidal financier, tries to keep Van Gogh's last painting out of his evil clutches), and think: for this, we waited? It's not a bad novel, if you don't mind a thriller that feels as though it was assembled from bits and pieces of other thrillers. Certainly Archer's writing skills have not deteriorated over the years, although they haven't improved, either. Some readers, too, may question the wisdom of using the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center as a plot point; this isn't a serious work about terrorism but, instead, simply uses the tragedy as a convenient narrative landmark. On the other hand, for those who found the appeal of The Da Vinci Code
to be in its mix of art and conspiracy, this one certainly follows the formula. Expect some demand, but buy with care. David PittCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved