On the morning of September 11, 2001, a courageous young woman escapes from the World Trade Center, but that is only the beginning of her trouble. To stay alive and avenge an old woman's death, Anna Petrescu must flee both the FBI and a would-be assassin. Her pursuit and her equally strange artistic mission, take her to Toronto, London, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Bucharest. Jeffrey Archer's first thriller in seven years reminds us of what we had been missing.
Even though Archer (Sons of Fortune) grounds his international art-thievery thriller in the events of 9/11, this leisurely paced, tepid effort has a musty feel. It's September 10, 2001, and Lady Victoria Wentworth is sitting in spacious Wentworth Hall considering the sad state of family fortunes when a female intruder slips in, slashes her throat and cuts off her ear. The next day in New York, art expert Anna Petrescu heads to her job as art wrangler for wealthy magnate Bryce Fenston of Fenston Finance. The pair's offices are in the Twin Towers, and when disaster strikes, each sees the tragedy as an opportunity to manipulate a transaction scheduled to transfer ownership of a legendary Van Gogh painting, Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear, from the Wentworth estate to the larcenous Fenston. The initially intriguing character, hit-woman and ex-gymnast Olga Krantz, turns out to be too lightweight, both physically and fictionally, to garner strong interest in anything other than her deadly skills with a kitchen knife. Lord Archer has been busy for the past five years or so serving half of a four-year prison sentence for perjury and writing a series of books about his prison experience; his first novel in seven years disappoints. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Consummate storyteller Archer (e.g., Sons of Fortune) is back in top form with his latest thriller. It's September 2001, and banker Bryce Fenston is being tailed by the FBI because several of his high-profile clients have died under mysterious circumstances, leaving Fenston Finance in control of rare art assets. When the owner of a priceless Van Gogh self-portrait is murdered at her English estate, FBI agent Jack Delany is ready to swoop in on Fenston and the bank's art historian, Anna Petrescu. Anna, however, is one of the good guys, ready to risk her career (and her life) to save the painting from Fenston's clutches. Before she can take control of the situation, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center occurs, leaving Anna presumed dead, which she uses to her advantage. A whirlwind, worldwide chase begins, with both the FBI and Fenston's paid assassin after Anna and the famous painting. Archer's usual plot twists and fast pace make for an enjoyable page-turner. His harrowing description of what it may have been like to escape the Twin Towers on 9/11 will haunt readers. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/05.]-Rebecca Vnuk, River Forest P.L., IL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Now that he's completed his trilogy of prison diaries (2003-05), Lord Archer, out on the street again, returns to his old habits with this tale of a disgraced art expert's attempt to thwart her villainous banker boss's plot to fleece a fine old English family of van Gogh's Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear. The morning after Lady Victoria Wentworth has her throat cut before she can follow Dr. Anna Petrescu's advice about selling off her van Gogh to cover her debt to Fenston Finance, Bryce Fenston fires Anna for offering the advice. Getting sacked is the best thing that could have happened to her, because while she's waiting for an elevator to take her down to the first floor of the World Trade Center for the last time, the building is rocked by a fiery explosion. Yes, it's 9/11, and while Archer is using the disaster as colorful background, Anna's taking advantage of the chaos to disappear, presumed dead. She plans to fly to England and ask Arabella Wentworth, Victoria's twin and heir, to help her steal the canvas, now technically Fenston's property, before Fenston's lieutenant, disbarred lawyer Karl Leapman, can pick it up. Knowing that a terrorist bombing goes only so far, Archer (Sons of Fortune, 2003, etc.) ladles on extra complications. An FBI agent who's had his eye on Fenston gets on Anna's trail. Her phone calls to her friend Tina Forster, Fenston's assistant, puts her irate ex-boss close behind. The knife-wielding assassin who killed Victoria Wentworth goes after Anna as well. Gradually, globe-hopping flights and substitutions of a hilariously unconvincing forgery for the real van Gogh start to take the place of plot developments, and somewhere between Bucharest and London, most ofthe suspense evaporates, though there are still a hundred pages left to run.
“Archer is back in top form with [this] latest thriller.” Library Journal (starred review)
“Thoroughly imagined...entertaining...thrilling.” Denver Post
“Murder and a high-stakes art-world theft are cleverly blended [in this] exciting...global thrill-ride.” Vancouver Sun
“Sail along from one high crime to the next....Archer is a great plotter....[and] in the middle of the action, [he] drops research gems.” Liz Smith, New York Post