Saturday, April 1, 2017
Review of "The Sins of the Father" by Jeffrey Archer
This is the second novel in the seven-book series, 'The Clifton Chronicles.'
In the first book, Only Time Will Tell, Englishman Harry Clifton was about to marry his great love, Emma Barrington, when a surprise revelation derailed the wedding. Turns out Emma's father - shipping heir Hugo Barrington - probably sired Harry as well, back in the days when Harry's mother was a prostitute.
World War II was about to break out and a downcast Harry went off to join the British Navy. His ship was sunk and Harry was rescued by a U.S. ocean liner. When an American sailor named Tom Bradshaw died, Harry - wanting to escape his family drama - assumed Bradshaw's identity. This was a mistake! On landing in New York 'Tom Bradshaw' (Harry) was arrested for killing his brother.....and Harry's people were notified that he died at sea.
As The Sins of the Father opens Harry is in New York, about to be tried for murder. A powerful attorney named Sefton Jelks, who has a secret agenda, arranges a plea deal and Harry is sentenced to six years in prison. While he's incarcerated Harry makes friends with a fellow inmate, deals with a sadistic guard, works in the prison library, keeps a diary, and is a model prisoner.....all of which leads to some important opportunities and events.
Meanwhile, back in England Emma Barrington gives birth to Harry's son. She also figures out that Harry might not be dead and - leaving the baby with relatives - goes to New York to investigate. Emma is an exceptionally clever, resourceful woman who finds out what she needs to know.....and eventually helps take down some avaricious men. I love Emma!!
Concurrently, Maisie Clifton (Harry's mother) works in a hotel restaurant and enrolls in classes to learn how to read and write. In the course of the story Maisie deals with Stan - her vicious bully of a brother; and Hugo Barrington - who's determined to buy the bombed out lot that once housed Maisie's tea shop. Maisie also acquires a couple of very respectable admirers. :)
WWII is now in full swing and Giles Barrington (Emma's brother and Harry's best friend), who'd rather party than fight, nevertheless joins the Wessex Regiment. Giles turn out to be a brave and capable soldier whose experiences on the battlefield - and in a POW camp - are impressive and compelling.
As for Hugo Barrington - he's still a ruthless, selfish man who lies, cheats, steals, and uses people. Hugo would do anything to get his way, even if it hurts his own family. When Hugo's father - Sir Walter Barrington - dies, Hugo becomes head of Barrington Shipping, which doesn't bode well for anyone.
The story contains a variety of interesting secondary characters, including: a prison warden; a literary agent; a book publisher; a butcher; a teacher; Emma's New York relatives; a Polish aristocrat; a private detective; German officers; and more.
By the end of the book there's a question about the rightful heir to the Barrington title and fortune: Is it Hugo's legitimate son Giles; or Hugo's (presumably) illegitimate son Harry? This is the cliffhanger that ends the narrative.
The book has a sort of 'fairy tale' vibe since the 'good guys' - though they face much uncertainty and hardship - generally prevail. And the 'bad guys' - who tend to be stereotypes (brutal bully; unscrupulous lawyer; greedy businessmen; etc.) - usually get what they deserve. In addition, who would believe Harry, who has an upper-class British accent, is an American? Still, I like the story so I'm willing to suspend disbelief (a little).
Fans of intricate family sagas and/or soap operas would probably like 'The Clifton Chronicles' and I strongly recommend this book to them.