This is a collection of 14 short stories with most of them based on true incidents, some observed by the author himself, some told to him by others. They range from a married woman being seduced by a con artist, to a South African having a change of heart regarding his racist views, to a man funding his talentless brother’s life as an artist.
At first glance, the stories seemed to be rather diverse in their range of topics and characters, but the further I got in the book the more did the stories and the approach to storytelling give me the feeling of reading the same story over and over again. There is always a twist at the end, the characters are mostly upper-class and seem to be preoccupied by activities such as sailing, golfing, or making tons of money; art and the intricacies of the law frequently play prominent roles, and confidence tricks and shady schemes pop up quite often. Due to this perceived repetitiveness, I cannot say with certainty whether I enjoyed the first few stories more than the rest because I read them first, or because they are truly better. Suffice to say that the second half was a bit of a slog for me.
On top of that, I am just not a fan of the twist endings in every story because in a few of them it seemed to me that the whole story was just geared towards the twist ending; hence I could see it coming from a mile away, and one in particular was not only terribly predictable, but insultingly dumb to boot, even if that was one of the true stories. This is just putting the cart before the horse, because I want a good story first and foremost, and not a mediocre story with a (maybe) good surprise ending. Archer also has the unfortunate tendency to overcomplicate rather irrelevant goings-on which is not conducive to this genre at all.
In the end, there was one story I truly liked, namely one about a millionaire who wants to make sure that his future heirs are worthy of his fortune. That one’s plot was pretty clever, and the characters engaging. As for the rest, maybe two or three were fine, the rest rather uninspired. Not recommended.
CBR11Bingo: The Collection