Saturday, July 11, 2009

Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less - Jeffrey Archer

Suspense and high intrigue form the core of this novel from Jefferey Archer, which happens to be his first. As an afterthought, the movie 'Ocean's Eleven' follows quite a similar theme. The story revolves around Harvey Metcalf, a young Polish man who grows into a millionaire businessman by making his fortunes through his knack of deceiving and defrauding people.

Harvey plots a scheme to make big money when the British Government invites applications for oil exploration in the North Sea. He registers a company called Prospecta Oil and employs David, a young Harvard graduate to work at the firm's London office. The company's directors drop hints to David that they have hit upon large oil deposits, and the company's stock is set to soar. David spreads the word around to a few people, and soon four individuals have invested a collective million dollars in the company and naturally, Harvey dissapears with the money.

Stephen, an Oxford professor, Robin, a physician, Jean-Pierre Lamanns, a French art dealer, and James Brigsley, an English lord, all find themselves swindled by Harvey who has left no legal track leading back to him. Stephen summons the other gentlemen to form a group and they vow to swindle thier money back from Harvey, including expenses for planning and execution (and hence the title). Each of the four play to thier strenghts (professor, doctor, art dealer and a English royal) to come up with convoluted schemes to get back thier money.

Jeffrey Archer is a great storyteller, and the story keeps moving at a fast pace from England to Monte Carlo to Boston. However, the scams executed by Stephen and the others are barely beleivable, and the fact that a man of Harvey's stature would be so naive as to fall into traps laid by amatuers is a bit hard to digest. Nevertheless, one of the strengths of the book is the way that the author drags you in and gets you to believe that these exotic plots can work.

Interesting to note that this book had saved Jeffrey Archer from bankruptcy back in 1976, and he has written many best selling books ever since. This is a good short novel, with lots of suspense and much to admire.