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.

13 comments:

Sumit said...

It's a nice read, and considering its fast pace and awesome storyline, I've always wondered why no one ever made a movie on it.

ZiLliOnBiG said...

i read it in college, sometime in 96-97, dont remember the plot, having read so many Archer books. But yes, this is one of his best books and popular ones.Thanks:))

Rahul Anand said...

@Sumit: Yes there hasn't been a movie on this one, but there was a TV Series based on this novel.

@ZiLliOnBiG: Thanks man. BTW if you don't mind me asking, what does 'Zillionbig' mean?

ZiLliOnBiG said...

ha!doesn't mean much. I used to thank people saying, Thanks a zillion , thanks a zillion. and when i was small i used to think zillion was the biggest figure and nothing can get bigger. Its what is infinity for me now, but when i was small, infinity was unperceptive. So i just took the name zillionbig. reminds me of my childhood. :))

Rahul Anand said...

Cool thanks, I was pretty close at guessing.

Smita said...

Aha! Of all archer books i very easily term this as my favorite book. I loved it for its style. So simple but yet there is a kind of smoothness in the happenings. A smart book this one is. Fantastic review buddy. So what are you reading currently?

Rahul Anand said...

Thanks Smita, I am reading a book by Nandan Nilekani of Infosys called 'Imagining India' and its quite huge.

I also tried a political journal 'The secret diary of Zhao Ziyang' but it was above my head. :-)

Smita said...

Aiyyoo!!!

U try such serious stuff :)

Rahul Anand said...

@Smita, yes I try to mix it up as I get bored of too much fiction, reason being that I know all that did not happen really and its the author's imagination. Crazy thought right :-)

Aparna said...

Hi Rahul.All Archer books are great. I love his smooth story telling style. Currently reading A toss of a lemon by Padma Vishwanathan. Have you read it?

Rahul Anand said...

@Aparna: I had read some good reviews of 'A toss of a Lemon' and checked it out at my library but I felt it was too big for me and I decided to skip it. But do let me know how it is :) Thanks.

Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri said...

I see that you review two to three books every month. I wish I could read that fast!

I think it is a great idea to run a blog with book reviews. I will surely come back.

I read this particular book long back and I share your views. I think in order to enjoy JA, one has to use the devise Coleridge called "willing suspension of disbelief."

Rahul Anand said...

Thank you Mr. Santanu. Looked up Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his formula of 'willing suspension of disbelief' on google, it was interesting reading. Thank you for visiting!