pearls and soap
Archer is an average author with moments of greatness. He started out writing soap opera/rags to riches novels, and more recently has been writing thrillers; he's written a number of delightful short stories; and somewhere in the middle he wrote one of the best caper novels of all time.
Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less takes place in England, and concerns four men collectively defrauded of a million dollars by an American financier named Harvey Metcalfe. The four losers, previously unknown to each other, conspire to steal every dollar back, not a penny more, not a penny less (after expenses, of course). Along the way, the four men--an Oxford don, a Harley Street physician, an art dealer, and an aristocrat--become close friends. It's four caper novels in one, and it's a joy. It has the distinct honor of being one of the extremely few novels I've read aloud to Jane, not only once, but twice.
Having enjoyed one book, I went seeking others, and found his soap operas. Kane and Abel is the story of two men, a banker from a wealthy family and a hotel-owner from the Old Country: their lives, their work, their families, and their conflicts with each other. There's a sequel, The Prodigal Daughter, which follows the daughter of one of the men through her career. They aren't bad, if you like that kind of thing, nor is First Among Equals, a tale of three men who become Members of Parliament. One of them will rise to become Prime Minister...but which one?
I originally read all of these, and one or two others, all while at about the same time. I rather lost track of Archer after that, though occasionally glances at the bookstore shelves indicate that he's been writing thrillers of one kind or another; one of the latest is The Eleventh Commandment, which I picked up to read on the plane coming back from Australia last year. It's an adequate kind of spy story...though perhaps the most amusing thing about it is that the main character flies to Los Angeles from Sydney on exactly the same airline and flight number I was on while I read it.
Some Books by Jeffrey Archer