Tell Tale
by Archer, Jeffrey

A collection of short tales features a series of protagonists reflecting the author's experiences with the people he has met and the cultures he has visited throughout the past decade.

JEFFREY ARCHER was educated at Oxford University. He served five years as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons and has served twenty-six years as a Member of the House of Lords. Now published in 97 countries and more than 37 languages, all of his novels and short story collections-including Kane & Abel, Only Time Will Tell and This Was a Man-have been international bestsellers. Jeffrey is married with two sons and three grandchildren, and lives in London, Cambridge and Majorca.

Fresh off Archer's hit multivolume Clifton Chronicles comes this collection of 13 short stories-the shortest of them coming in at exactly 100 words, and more than half of them based on real incidents Archer learned about on his travels. All of the stories spotlight the author's gifts for creating fully fleshed characters and absorbing plots in lean, efficient prose. Among the offerings, there's a story about a devious stamp collector; an Agatha Christie-like murder mystery with more than 1,400 suspects; a clever look at the genius of Shakespeare (with a debate about the authorship of Shakespeare's plays); a tale of a love triangle set during WWII; a neat little story about a budding writer who hitches a ride from an elderly man (with a surprising twist at the end); and a heartrending tale about a man whose wife has been cheating on him. All are written with Archer's keen eye for time and place, and his keen ear for dialogue. Another reminder that Archer is as accomplished at writing short stories as he is at writing long-form fiction. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Archer (Cometh the Hour, 2016, etc.) shifts from the Clifton Chronicles series to spin 13 pieces of thoroughly readable short fiction.In "Who Killed the Mayor," Archer opens the book with a young Neapolitan detective assigned to a small town in Campania to investigate a murder of a man whose presence had been poisoning the idyllic village; the story quickly becomes a farce and concludes with a sharp left turn. Archer's theme changes in "A Gentleman and a Scholar"; in one of two stories set in the United States, a retiring professor—one of the first women to teach at Yale—gives a final lecture on Shakespeare, becoming a study in grace. Archer prefers old-fashioned themes, morality tales or stories in which immorality has its own rewards, but mostly stories that arrive at conclusions rather than fade into a contemporary fog. His dialogue is seamless, and even in short form, Archer has a gift for memorable characters. In the first story, Lt. Antonio Rossetti, the Nea politan detective, is a picture of self-regard whose sophistication masks ingenuousness. Later, in "The Senior Vice President," Arthur Dunbar becomes a thorough portrait of a decent man, albeit an unimaginative one, warped into a more nuanced being by a cold, faceless corporation. In that story Archer uses his setting to build atmosphere as "the roads became lanes, and the lanes, paths, until he finally saw a turreted castle standing foursquare on a hill in the distance." Don't, however, examine the foreshadowing too closely as that story approaches its O. Henry-esque conclusion. "A Good Toss to Lose" has a melancholy, somewhat Rashomon flair. "The Road to Damascus" lets Archer explore apparent opposites, the spiritual and the ironic. And in a bit of whimsy, Archer gives readers the work of choosing a conclusion in "The Holiday of a Lifetime."Those remembering Saturday Evening Post's short stories will enjoy this collection. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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