Best Kept Secret by Jeffrey Archer
Might contain spoilers.
I was an avid Archer reader back in the day, but not for some years. The first half is an enjoyably typical tale of British politics and business, mostly written in his signature style with his standard humour, intrigue, and preoccupations. However, there’s something clumsy and awkward about how it flits from protagonist to protagonist to the detriment of the story—unusual, given how adept he usually is at the device.
I only realized after 40 pages that this wasn’t a standalone novel but the third in a series of seven. I assume that’s why several characters and plot elements are established to no apparent purpose. I considered pausing to read the previous entries but never did, and after the second half I have no interest.
The introduction of and focus on Sebastian and Don Pedro Martinez in that half is especially unfortunate: the evil foreigner is a questionable choice of antagonist, and Sebastian’s life is uninteresting even compared to the other characters. The repeated idea that ‘his life would have gone perfectly if not for the events in this chapter’ is tedious.
The episode in Argentina, in contrast, moves smoothly and pleasantly without being anchored to the story, though what’s interesting is Harry’s part in it. Incidentally, it’s amusing to see women throw themselves at this moderately successful author.
The ending is reminiscent of Sons of Fortune but abrupt, ambiguous, and much less effective.