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Best Kept Secret (The Clifton Chronicles) Mass Market Paperback – November 26, 2013
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“One of the top ten storytellers in the world.” ―Los Angeles Times on JEFFREY ARCHER
“There isn't a better storyteller alive.” ―Larry King on JEFFREY ARCHER
“Archer plots with skill, and keeps you turning the pages.” ―The Boston Globe on JEFFREY ARCHER
“Cunning plots, silken style…. Archer plays a cat-and-mouse game with the reader.” ―The New York Times on JEFFREY ARCHER
“Archer is a master entertainer.” ―Time on JEFFREY ARCHER
“A storyteller in the class of Alexandre Dumas…unsurpassed skill.” ―Washington Post on JEFFREY ARCHER
“Archer delivers another page-turning, heart-stopping saga, with delightful twists, and a surprise ending… readers will surely wait for the next with bated breath.” ―Publishers Weekly on Sins of the Father
“You'll risk back injury just from being kept on the edge of your seat…. I guarantee that anyone who takes this book from the shelves will not be able to put it down.” ―The Spectator on Sins of the Father
“A master of fiction…[Jeffrey Archer] can tell a story, and he does so with such conviction, such appealing naïveté, that you suspend disbelief, and read happily on.” ―The Scotsman on Sins of the Father
“General readers as well as Archer fans will enjoy this unforgettable tale, which abounds with cliff-hangers that propel its intriguing and intricate plot.” ―Library Journal (starred review) on Only Time Will Tell
“The drama of Harry Clifton's young life takes the reader to the edge of the cliff, where they must hang until the next Clifton Chronicle...” ―Sunday Telegraph on the Clifton Chronicle series
“What appears at the outset to be a straightforward coming-of-age tale becomes, by the end, a saga of power, betrayal, and bitter hatred. The novel ends on a deliberately dark note, setting the stage for the sequel…An outstanding effort from a reliable veteran.” ―Booklist (starred review) on Only Time Will Tell
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Books are terrific not among the world's great literature but compelling and absorbing plots, surprisingly interesting characters, beautifully written and constructed, totally absorbing and enjoyable.
Thanks Jeffrey Archer
There is nothing wrong with the writing. Archer may suffer from the same difficulty as other series books. The author doesn’t seem to know when to end the penultimate book. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson finale, The Last Olympian, and Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins’ crescendo of The Hunger Games, weren’t bad books, but they could have ended sooner.
So much happened in Best Kept Secret and then in the last 30% (Kindle language) it went in a totally unexpected direction. The answer to the end of the book’s latest unknown secret now must wait until whenever Book 4 comes out.
Archer uses an interesting technique. He separates the books by devoting sections to each main character and what happens to them in a year or years. He used this method in a previous book I read.
Most of the books are situated in Bristol, England. It begins in 1920. The main Clifton is Harry. What we know for sure is his mother is Maise Clifton. They are poor, working class people who live with her parents and brother. Shortly before she is to marry Arthur Clifton, a dock worker at the Bristol Docklands, Maise has a one-time tryst with Hugo Barrington, whose family owns the Bristol shipping company. Arthur mysteriously disappears shortly after he and Maise are married, so she suspects Harry’s father may be Hugo Barrington. In Harry’s early years, he finds a mentor in Old Jack Tar, a World War I hero, who lives in an old train carriage at the docks.
Harry’s singing voice earns him a place at exclusive St. Bedes, and then Bristol Grammar School. His best friend is Giles Barrington, son of Hugo, despite their different social classes. Harry is the better student; Giles is proficient at cricket. Giles has two sisters, Emma and Grace. The three of them and their mother do not understand why Hugo discourages the friendship. As Harry is three weeks older than Giles, Hugo realizes Harry may actually be the heir to the Barrington estate. This is the overriding mystery throughout the series, rather than a dead body, find the murderer.
Harry and Emma fall in love during their teens and want to marry. At the ceremony, Old Jack steps forward and says Harry and Emma may have the same father. Maise admits to the one-time tryst, while Hugo slips out of the church.
Just before World War II, Harry joins a naval ship – with the help of Giles’ grandfather – and the ship is sunk. Harry and an American survive, but after the American dies, Harry assumes the other’s identity and goes to America, where upon arrival, he is arrested for murder. End of Only Time Will Tell.
In The Sins of the Father, Giles and Harry (after he is released from prison) become war heroes. Harry then embarks on a career as a best-selling mystery writer. Hugo goes to London and eventually moves in with a Jewish refugee. He comes back to Bristol after his father dies to take over the business. He is killed and an infant is found in his office. His death in 1943 opens the gates as to whether Harry or Giles is the rightful heir. Harry has no interest in the estate, only wanting to marry Emma. He and Giles are still good friends. This becomes a cause celebré in England with divisions along class lines.
There were no paternity tests back then. The decision reaches the House of Lords. Best Kept Secret opens with the Lord Chancellor having to break a tie. He rules for Giles, leaving Harry and Emma free to marry. Giles becomes a Member of Parliament, oddly as a member of the Labour Party.
Emma tracks down the child that had been found in her father’s office, to adopt, and join their son, Sebastian. She, Harry, Giles, and Grace know that Jessica could well be their half-sister. Next, Giles contests his mother’s will in 1951, and then, he has a tough re-election campaign.
All of that takes up most of Best Kept Secret,and then Archer takes the story off somewhere else. Sebastian is about to head to Cambridge in 1958, when the father of a friend hires Sebastian to bring a shipment back from Argentina. Sebastian is not aware of the (secret) nefarious plot. After his return, Sebastian and his friend are driving to Cambridge. That’s where Best Kept Secret ends.
Top international reviews
Two aspects of this novel slightly disappointed me; the pacing and the relative paucity of coverage of Sebastian's childhood. In terms of pacing, in places this story did not hold my interest to the same degree as the two earlier novels. This may be because I found some of the topics less interesting; for example the section of the story that dealt with the counting of votes on election night seemed unnecessarily protracted. Secondly, Sebastian (Harry Clifton's son) features quite prominently in this story but I felt that the pages devoted to his childhood were not as richly defined as those that focused on Harry's childhood in the first novel. As a result, I did not warm to Sebastian's character to the same extent as I had to Harry's.
However, these disappointments are overshadowed by Jeffrey Archer's ability to weave a wonderful family saga full of unexpected twists and turns that kept me wanting to find out what would happen next. As for the ending, I was pleased for once that I had not been reading these novels at the time they were originally published because the wait to find out what happened next would have really irritated me. However, by coming to this saga late has proved a blessing in disguise as I was able to immediately start reading the next book in the series ('Be Careful What You Wish For') and find out what happened next without any delay!
Given that Sebastian is the next generation of Cliftons, I would have thought that Archer would have made his life as rich and detailed as he did when he wrote about Harry and Giles growing up.
The way in which the scenes were written reminded me of detailed bullet points and often they read like this too, which is very disappointing.
Due to the style of the writing in this volume, I didn't identify enough with the new characters to form an emotional bond and so was not affected at all by the emotionally charged ending....I am quite sure this is not what Archer was aiming for.
It does end on a cliffhanger though and I did immediately pick up the next volume to find out what happened, but it looks like this may be written in the same way :-(.
The chronicles may have only been intended as three, but ended up at seven, yet I feel he should have kept the richness to the writing and story and not worried how many would be in the final set. I will see it through to the end because I am invested in Harry and Giles, for better or worse.
Following the ruling, Giles pursues a political career and Harry continues as an author. But the road is never clear cut and as I've recently discovered, Archer really knows how to pull the reader in to a convoluted yarn and make it compelling. I particularly enjoyed the machinations around an election. Archer builds the tension' even when the storyline is slightly preposterous. I think he captures a particular age and some elitism really well. Most of the characters here are untouched by a bleak post war mid 50s Britain. But that's what escapist fiction is all about. It's sometime cliched, it's easy to read and the bottom line is, this is another ripping yarn which kept me reading. Having avoided all his books over some 20+ years, I'm surprised at how much I'm enjoying this series, given my inherent dislike if the author.
He tops my list of authors, and this series is one of his best. It leads you THROUGH 100 years of the Clifton family. A MUST read set of books.
I have never been disappointed by Archer - this one is no exception. The pace, the story are both great. However, people know Archers' works well may find it getting a little old with the same formulas - a life history of so many people, bad guys (and I mean people with absolutely no moral whatsoever), a little complicated affairs and a hint of danger on the side.
Another problem is this Clifton Chronicles will go from 3 to 5 or even 7 books! This is ridiculous. Of course one can drag it on for ever. Sebastian can have a son, but by then Harry Clifton would probably be dead (the new villain killed him or something). Jessica grows up and find out Emma is her half sister and thus Sebastian is her Uncle etc.... she might change as a result of this knowledge and start going off from there....
Mr Archer, be careful! You may turn a good series into something that everyone hates.
'Be careful what you wish for' will be out early next year. I just hope Archer will come to his senses and round things up. I think getting to No.5 with everyone' life coming to a close will be fine. Don't drag it on.
Although I am enjoying these books, I am becoming bored but I have bought the next book to find out what is happening. For which I already knew the answer as it tells you the family's history in the other books so you know whos going to die and when.
Kindle is just the job for such a series !!