Heads You Win: A Novel

Heads You Win: A Novel

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Overview

This program is read by acclaimed English actor Richard Armitage.

Heads You Win is international #1 bestseller Jeffrey Archer’s most ambitious and creative work since Kane and Abel, with a final twist that will shock even his most ardent of fans.

Leningrad, Russia, 1968: From an early age it is clear that Alexander Karpenko is destined to lead his countrymen. But when his father is assassinated by the KGB for defying the state, Alexander and his mother will have to escape Russia if they hope to survive. At the docks, they have an irreversible choice: board a container ship bound for America or one bound for Great Britain. Alexander leaves the choice to a toss of a coin…

In a single moment, a double twist decides Alexander’s future. During an epic tale, spanning two continents and thirty years, we follow Alexander through triumph and defeat as he sets out on parallel lives as Alex in New York and Sasha in London. As this unique story unfolds, both come to realize that to find their destiny they must face the past they left behind as Alexander in Russia.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781427299222
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publication date: 11/06/2018
Edition description: Unabridged
Sales rank: 160,256
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

JEFFREY ARCHER was educated at Oxford University. He has served five years in Britain's House of Commons and twenty-six years in the House of Lords. All of his novels and short story collections—including Cometh the Hour, the instant #1 New York Times bestseller—have been international bestselling books. Archer is married with two sons and three grandchildren and lives in London and Cambridge.

Hometown:

London and the Old Vicarage, Grantchester

Date of Birth:

April 15, 1940

Education:

Attended Brasenose College, Oxford, 1963-66. Received a diploma in sports education from Oxford Institute

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

ALEXANDER

Leningrad, 1968

"What are you going to do when you leave school?" asked Alexander.

"I'm hoping to join the KGB," Vladimir replied, "but they won't even consider me if I don't get a place at the state university. How about you?"

"I intend to be the first democratically elected president of Russia," said Alexander, laughing.

"And if you make it," said Vladimir, who didn't laugh, "you can appoint me as head of the KGB."

"I don't approve of nepotism," said Alexander, as they strolled across the schoolyard and out onto the street.

"Nepotism?" said Vladimir, as they began to walk home.

"It derives from the Italian word for 'nephew,' and dates back to the popes of the seventeenth century, who often handed out patronage to their relations and close friends."

"What's wrong with that?" said Vladimir. "You just exchange the popes for the KGB."

"Are you going to the match on Saturday?" asked Alexander, wanting to change the subject.

"No. Once Zenit F.C. reached the semifinals, there was never any chance of someone like me getting a ticket. But surely as your father's the docks' supervisor, you'll automatically be allocated a couple of seats in the reserved stand for party members?"

"Not while he still refuses to join the Communist Party," said Alexander. "And when I last asked him, he didn't sound at all optimistic about getting a ticket, so Uncle Kolya is now my only hope."

As they continued walking, Alexander realized they were both avoiding the one subject that was never far from their minds.

"When do you think we'll find out?"

"I've no idea," said Alexander. "I suspect our teachers enjoy watching us suffering, well aware it will be the last time they have any power over us."

"You have nothing to worry about," said Vladimir. "The only discussion in your case is whether you'll win the Lenin Scholarship to the foreign language school in Moscow, or be offered a place at the state university to study mathematics. Whereas I can't even be sure of getting into university, and if I don't, my chances of joining the KGB are kaput." He sighed. "I'll probably end up working on the docks for the rest of my life, with your father as my boss."

Alexander didn't offer an opinion as the two of them entered the tenement block where they lived, and began to climb the worn stone steps to their flats.

"I wish I lived on the first floor, and not the ninth."

"As you well know, Vladimir, only party members live on the first three floors. But I'm sure that once you've joined the KGB, you'll come down in the world."

"See you in the morning," said Vladimir, ignoring his friend's jibe as he began to climb the remaining four flights.

As Alexander opened the door to his family's tiny flat on the fifth floor, he recalled an article he'd recently read in a state magazine reporting that America was so overrun with criminals that everyone had at least two locks on their front door. Perhaps the only reason they didn't in the Soviet Union, he thought, was because no one had anything worth stealing.

He went straight to his bedroom, aware that his mother wouldn't be back until she'd finished her shift at the docks. He took several sheets of lined paper, a pencil and a well-thumbed book out of his satchel, and placed them on the tiny table in the corner of his room, before opening War and Peace at page 179 and continuing to translate Tolstoy's words into English. When the Rostov family sat down for supper that night, Nikolai appeared distracted, and not just because ...

Alexander was double-checking each line for spelling mistakes, and to see if he could think of a more appropriate English word, when he heard the front door open. His tummy began to rumble, and he wondered if his mother had been able to smuggle any tidbits out of the officers' club, where she was the cook. He closed his book and went to join her in the kitchen.

Elena gave him a warm smile as he sat down on a wooden bench at the table.

"Anything special tonight, Mama?" Alexander asked hopefully.

She smiled again, and began to empty her pockets, producing a large potato, two parsnips, half a loaf of bread, and this evening's prize, a steak that had probably been left on an officer's plate after lunch. A veritable feast, thought Alexander, compared to what his friend Vladimir would be eating tonight. There's always someone worse off than you, his mother often reminded him.

"Any news?" Elena asked as she began to peel the potato.

"You ask me the same question every night, Mama, and I keep telling you that I don't expect to hear anything for at least another month, possibly longer."

"It's just that your father would be so proud if you won the Lenin Scholarship." She put down the potato and placed the peel to one side. Nothing would be wasted. "You know, if it hadn't been for the war, your father would have gone to university."

Alexander was very aware, but always happy to be reminded how Papa had been stationed on the eastern front as a young corporal during the siege of Leningrad, and although a crack Panzer division had attacked his section continuously for ninety-three days, he'd never left his post until the Germans had given up and retreated to their own country.

"For which he was awarded the Defence of Leningrad medal," said Alexander on cue.

His mother must have told him the story a hundred times, but Alexander didn't tire of it, although his father never raised the subject. And now, almost twenty-five years later, after returning to the docks he'd risen to Comrade Chief Supervisor, with three thousand workers under his command. Although he wasn't a party member, even the KGB acknowledged that he was the only man for the job.

The front door opened and closed with a bang, announcing that his father was home. Alexander smiled as he strode into the kitchen. Tall and heavily built, Konstantin Karpenko was a handsome man who could still make a young woman turn and take a second look. His weather-beaten face was dominated by a luxuriantly bushy mustache that Alexander remembered stroking as a child, something he hadn't dared to do for several years. Konstantin slumped down onto the bench opposite his son.

"Supper won't be ready for another half hour," said Elena as she diced the potato.

"We must only speak English whenever we are alone," said Konstantin.

"Why?" asked Elena in her native tongue. "I've never met an Englishman in my life, and I don't suppose I ever will."

"Because if Alexander is to win that scholarship and go to Moscow, he will have to be fluent in the language of our enemies."

"But the British and Americans fought on the same side as us during the war, Papa."

"On the same side, yes," said his father, "but only because they considered us the lesser of two evils." Alexander gave this some thought as his father stood up. "Shall we have a game of chess while we're waiting?" he asked. Alexander nodded. His favorite part of the day. "You set up the board while I go and wash my hands."

Once Konstantin had left the room, Elena whispered, "Why not let him win for a change?" "Never," said Alexander. "In any case, he'd know if I wasn't trying, and leather me." He pulled open the drawer below the kitchen table and took out an old wooden board and a box containing a set of chess pieces, one of which was missing, so each night a plastic salt cellar had to substitute for a bishop.

Alexander moved his king's pawn two squares forward, before his father returned. Konstantin responded immediately, moving his queen's pawn one square forward.

"How did you do in the match?" he asked.

"We won three nil," said Alexander, moving his queen's knight.

"Another clean sheet, well done," said Konstantin. "Although you're the best goalkeeper the school's had in years, it's still more important to win that scholarship. I assume you still haven't heard anything?"

"Nothing," said Alexander, as he made his next move. It was a few moments before his father countered. "Papa, can I ask if you've managed to get a ticket for the match on Saturday?"

"No," admitted his father, his eyes never leaving the board. "They're rarer than a virgin on Nevsky Prospect."

"Konstantin!" said Elena. "You can behave like a docker when you're at work, but not at home."

Konstantin grinned at his son. "But your uncle Kolya has been promised a couple of tickets on the terraces, and as I have no interest in going ..." Alexander leaped in the air as his father made his next move, pleased to have distracted his son.

"You could have had as many tickets as you wanted," said Elena, "if only you'd agree to become a party member."

"That's not something I'm willing to do, as you well know. Quid pro quo. An expression you taught me," said Konstantin, looking across the table at his son. "Never forget, that lot will always expect something in return, and I'm not willing to sell my friends down the river for a couple of tickets to a football match."

"But we haven't reached the semifinal of the cup for years," said Alexander.

"And probably won't again in my lifetime. But it will take far more than that to get me to join the Communist Party."

"Vladimir's already a pioneer and signed up for the Komsomol," said Alexander, after he'd made his next move.

"Hardly surprising," said Konstantin. "Otherwise he'd have no chance of joining the KGB, which is the natural habitat for that particular piece of pond life."

Once again, Alexander was distracted. "Why are you always so hard on him, Papa?" "Because he's a shifty little bastard, just like his father. Be sure you never trust him with a secret, because it will have been passed on to the KGB before you've reached home."

"He's not that bright," said Alexander. "Frankly, he'll be lucky to be offered a place at the state university."

"He may not be bright, but he's cunning and ruthless, a dangerous combination. Believe me, he'd shop his mother for a ticket to the cup final, probably even the semifinal."

"Supper's ready," said Elena.

"Shall we call it a draw?" said Konstantin.

"Certainly not, Papa. I'm six moves away from checkmate, and you know it."

"Stop squabbling, you two," said Elena, "and lay the table."

"When did I last manage to beat you?" asked Konstantin as he placed his king on its side.

"November the nineteenth, 1967," said Alexander, as the two of them stood up and shook hands.

Alexander put the salt cellar back on the table and returned the chess pieces to the box while his father took down three plates from the shelf above the sink. Alexander opened the kitchen drawer and took out three knives and three forks of different vintages. He recalled a paragraph in War and Peace that he'd just translated. The Rostovs regularly enjoyed a five-course dinner (better word than "supper" — he would change it when he returned to his room), and a different set of silver cutlery accompanied each dish. The family also had a dozen liveried servants who stood behind each chair to serve the meals that had been prepared by three cooks, who never seemed to leave the kitchen. But Alexander was sure that the Rostovs couldn't have had a better cook than his mother, otherwise she wouldn't be working in the officers' club.

One day ... he told himself, as he finished laying the table and sat back down on the bench opposite his father. Elena joined them with the evening's offering, which she divided between the three of them, but not equally. The thick steak that along with the parsnips and the potatoes, had been "repatriated"— a word Alexander had taught her, had been cut into two pieces. "Waste not, want not," she could manage in both languages.

"I've got a church meeting this evening," said Konstantin as he picked up his fork. "But I shouldn't be back too late."

Alexander cut his steak into several pieces, chewing each morsel slowly, between mouthfuls of bread and sips of water. He saved the parsnip till last. Its bland taste lingered in his mouth. He wasn't sure if he even liked it. In War and Peace parsnips were only eaten by the servants. They continued to talk in English while they enjoyed the meal.

Konstantin emptied his glass of water, wiped his mouth on the sleeve of his jacket, stood up, and left the room without another word.

"You can go back to your books, Alexander. This shouldn't take me too long," his mother said with a wave of her hand.

Alexander happily obeyed her. Back in his room, he replaced the word "supper" with "dinner," before turning to the next page and continuing with his translation of Tolstoy's masterpiece. The French were advancing on Moscow ...

As Konstantin left the apartment block and walked out onto the street, he was unaware of a pair of eyes staring down at him.

Vladimir had been gazing aimlessly out of the window, unable to concentrate on his schoolwork, when he spotted Comrade Karpenko leaving the building. It was the third time that week. Where was he going at this time of night? Perhaps he should find out. He quickly left his room and tiptoed down the corridor. He could hear loud snoring coming from the front room, and peeped in to see his father slumped in his ancient horsehair chair, an empty bottle of vodka lying on the floor by his side. He opened and closed the front door quietly, then bolted down the stone steps and out onto the street. Glancing to his left he spotted Mr. Karpenko turning the corner and ran after him, slowing down only when he reached the end of the road.

He peered around the corner, and watched as Comrade Karpenko went into the Church of the Apostle Andrew. What a complete waste of time, thought Vladimir. The Orthodox Church may have been frowned on by the KGB, but it wasn't actually banned. He was about to turn back and go home when another man appeared out of the shadows, whom he'd never seen at church on Sundays.

Vladimir was careful to remain out of sight as he edged his way slowly toward the church. He watched as two more men came from the other direction and quickly made their way inside, then froze when he heard footsteps behind him. He slipped over the wall and lay on the ground, waiting until the man had passed before he crept between the gravestones to the back of the church and an entrance that only the choristers ever used. He turned the heavy door handle and cursed when it didn't open.

Looking around, he spotted a half-open window above him. He couldn't quite reach it, so using a rough stone slab as a step, pushed himself up off the ground. On his third attempt, he managed to grab the window ledge, and with a supreme effort pulled himself up and squeezed his slim body through the window before dropping to the floor on the other side.

Vladimir tiptoed silently through the back of the church until he reached the sanctuary, where he hid behind the altar. Once his heartbeat had returned to almost normal, he peered around the side of the altar to see a dozen men seated in the choir stalls, deep in conversation.

"So when will you share your idea with the rest of the workforce?" one of them was asking.

"Next Saturday, Stepan," said Konstantin, "when all our comrades come together for the monthly works meeting. I'll never have a better opportunity to convince them to join us."

"Not even a hint to some of the older hands about what you have in mind?" asked another.

"No. Our only chance of success is surprise. We don't need to alert the KGB to what we're up to."

"But they're certain to have spies in the room, listening to your every word."

"I'm aware of that, Mikhail. But by then the only thing they'll be able to report back to their masters will be the strength of our support for forming an independent trade union."

"Although I have no doubt the men will back you," said a fourth voice, "no amount of rousing oratory can stop a bullet in its tracks." Several of the men nodded gravely.

"Once I've delivered my speech on Saturday," said Konstantin, "the KGB will be wary of doing anything quite that stupid, because if they did, the men would rise as one, and they'd never be able to squeeze the genie back into the bottle. But Yuri is right," he continued. "You're all taking a considerable risk for a cause I've long believed in, so if anyone wants to change his mind and leave the group, now is the time to do so."

"You won't find a Judas among us," said another voice, as Vladimir stifled a cough. The men all stood as one to acknowledge Karpenko as their leader.

"Then we'll meet again on Saturday morning. Until then we must remain silent, and keep our counsel."

Vladimir's heart was thumping as the men shook hands with each other, one by one, before leaving the church. He didn't move until he finally heard the great west door slam shut, and a key turn in the lock. He then scurried back to the vestry, and with the help of a stool, wriggled out of the window, clinging to the ledge before dropping to the ground like a seasoned wrestler. The one discipline where Alexander wasn't in his class.

Aware that he didn't have a moment to lose, Vladimir ran in the opposite direction to Mr. Karpenko, toward a street that didn't need a NO ENTRY sign, as only party officials ever considered entering Tereshkova Prospect. He knew exactly where Major Polyakov lived, but wondered if he had the nerve to knock on his door at that time of night. At any time of the day or night, for that matter.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Heads You Win"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Jeffrey Archer.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Dedication,
Acknowledgments,
Book One,
1. Alexander,
2. Alexander,
3. Alexander,
Book Two,
4. Sasha,
5. Alex,
6. Sasha,
7. Alex,
8. Sasha,
9. Alex,
10. Sasha,
11. Alex,
12. Sasha,
13. Alex,
14. Sasha,
15. Alex,
16. Sasha,
Book Three,
17. Alex,
18. Sasha,
19. Alex,
20. Sasha,
21. Alex,
22. Sasha,
23. Alex,
24. Alex,
25. Sasha,
26. Sasha,
27. Sasha,
28. Alex,
29. Alex,
30. Alex,
31. Sasha,
32. Alex,
33. Sasha,
34. Alex,
35. Alex,
Book Four,
36. Sasha,
37. Sasha,
38. Alex,
39. Alex,
40. Alex,
Book Five,
41. Sasha,
42. Sasha,
43. Alex,
44. Sasha,
Book Six,
45. Alex and Sasha,
Book Seven,
46. Alexander,
Also by Jeffrey Archer,
About the Author,
Copyright,

Customer Reviews

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Heads You Win: A Novel 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very+fast+read.+++The+pace+set+by+Mr.+Archer+is+typical+of+his+writing.++can%27t+wait+to+read+his+next+book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Had me guessing all the way to the end who choose which crate.
Anonymous 7 months ago
I love Jeffrey Archer's books. I enjoyed this one, until the ending. I'm still scratching my head trying to figure it out! Many reviewers were impressed with the "twist". I went back and read the ending twice and still don't get it! Disappointing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He never fails to thrill and surprise, and he makes me think. thanks, what's next?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fair
jm38 3 months ago
I loved the Clifton series and loved this until it jumped from one character to another with no explanation. It kept me reading, but always felt I missed something. Must be a little dense....
jm38 3 months ago
I loved the Clifton series and loved this until it jumped from one character to another with no explanation. It kept me reading, but always felt I missed something. Must be a little dense....
DBBGriswold 5 months ago
Intriguing premise, skips around a great deal but takes you in a ride of one protagonist living two identities based on the flip of a coin. Poignant character usage all wrapped up by the last line of the book.
Anonymous 9 months ago
enjoying++the++storyline+till+being+jerked+into++another++can%27t++say++I++was++impressed++with+this+.
bookaholique 10 months ago
It's late in the 1960s and Alex Karpenko and his mother Elena are looking to escape the KGB in communist Russia. Their uncle helps them escape by hiding them in a crate to be loaded onto a cargo ship. On the dock, they must decide if the want to go to America or the UK. The decision is made with the flip of a coin. It is here that the story gets very interesting because the author decided to write two stories of how their lives play out on both continents. We follow Alex and Elena as their life unfolds in the states. And we follow Sasha and his mother as their life unfolds in Britain. While there are some similarities regarding what happens to each young man, there are also significant differences. But in each case, whether it be Alex or Sasha, they both lead of life of honor, hard work and commitment. It has been a very long time since I've read a book by Jeffrey Archer and I had forgotten what a masterful storyteller he is. I could not have picked a better book to bring me back into the fold. I immediately became attached to Sasha/Alex and Elena. The all met life's up and downs with grace and integrity. There is quite a surprise at the end that I did not see coming. I thought the conclusion was equal parts sad and brilliant. This goes on my list of all time favorite books. It was plain and simple just that good. My thanks to St. Martin's Press and Netgalley.
Anonymous 11 months ago
wasn%27t+as+good+as+priorbooks.
susan568SW 12 months ago
I have been reading Jeffrey Archer books for years so I know when I pick one up it's going to be an entertaining and fast read and this lived up to my expectations. Alexander Karpenko has to flee Russia in 1968 after his father was assassinated by the KGB for trying to form a labor union. Alexander and his mother manage to get aboard a cargo ship to escape. Here the story takes a definite turn following two different scenarios on what happens to Alexander. I found this approach to be interesting and definitely peaked my curiosity on how this was all going to end. Wow what an ending. The last sentence sealed the deal and this is why I love reading anything by Jeffrey Archer.
Andrew_of_Dunedin 12 months ago
There are a few pivotal moments in everyone's life. Moments where a decision must be made, and the results of that decision will be the springboard towards the good and the bad in the rest of your life. Soviet citizen Alexander Karpenko and his mother are at such a point. It appears that his “friend” Vladmir has betrayed Karpenko's father and his unionization plans, so the KGB has eliminated the man in a port “accident”. Mother and son MUST flee the Soviet Union, and in the port of Leningrad, they allow a coin flip to determine if they will board a ship bound for London, or one for America. Which way does the coin land? In “Heads, You Win”, author Jeffrey Archer gives the reader a look at life for Karpenko when “Heads” sends him to New York AND when “Tails” sends him to London. In both lives, we see that Karpenko's brains, personality, and ambition help him rise in life, albeit through different paths. We see that the lives have many parallels and many differences, but that the driving force towards success is a constant. The book has a small weakness – Mr. Archer attempts to have the two lives touch, albeit tangentially. However, since the “two men”, now called Alex in America and Sasha in England, are actually the same person in two different “timelines” (as this isn't a science fiction story, I hesitate to use such a term), the hint that people from Alex's life might encounter Sasha and potentially confuse the two men – and vice verse – puts a strain on the story that the author is trying to tell, at least for this reviewer. Then, the last paragraph – indeed, the last sentence – caused me to mutter “Holy !” aloud. I will always award bonus points to an author that can take my breath away at the end of his or her story with an event, scene, development, or revelation. RATING: Four and 1/2 Stars, rounded up to Five Stars where 1/2 stars are not permitted.
drssox More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyed. His style differs from many other writers. He is more conversational and tells a story versus most others. Yes, many say is is Kane and Abel like. Would agree. Sasha and his protege Alex (or visa-versa) deal with life, politics and country. Ending will blow you away. Thank you again for a great writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found the two parallel stories interesting but the ending left me cold
CLynnT More than 1 year ago
A struggling family escaping Russia must make a split-second decision at the docks: England or America? Jeffery Archer takes us into the imaginative world of what-if. One storyline follows the crate to England. The other is on the ship to America. What follows is the life of each young boy as he struggles and constantly wonders, “what if we had chosen the other crate?” I enjoyed the storyline of each of the lead characters in this book; it was a bit confusing for me but I trusted that Archer had it sharp in his head. He’s an excellent author and I’ve enjoyed his novels for many years, Kane and Abel being my first great read. But this one kept me on my toes after the coin toss. The plot: one is based on heads, one is based on tails. Sasha and Alex each lead vastly different lives in England and America. Their stories of struggle, their strong mother Elena, their will to succeed and become the voice for those they most relate to is a common thread. Their lives are colorful; it’s enjoyable watching each go through his own personal struggles. I trusted that all along the end would expose the means. Without spoiling it, I have to say that’s not what happened. Jeffery Archer, you’re an astute writer. In my younger years, I could keep up with your logic. You made me work for this one. I loved every line of it (I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for making it available.)
KBrady More than 1 year ago
Although the writing and political process of England and Russia interesting. The ending was far from a welcome twist.
GraceJReviewerlady More than 1 year ago
I have admired Jeffrey Archer's writing for a long time, ever since burying my nose in Kane and Abel; he delivers every time and this is reminiscent of his previous works - and yet so very different . .. Put simply, this is the tale of a young Russian boy who learns only too soon what it's like to live in a totalitarian state - but this is no simple story. When necessity demands that he leave the country of his birth, Alexander has a brief window in which to decide to head to which united country; that of Britain of the states of America. Which should it be? This is a cleverly woven and engrossing read which, very cleverly, makes a few oblique references to the author's previous works (blink and you'll miss them) which all adds to the authenticity as I find all his novels completely believable. Such a fascinating read but it pays never to get too comfortable as there is always a surprise lurking in the wings - and none more so that the ending. Never saw THAT coming!! A truly delightful and encompassing novel which makes the brain work overtime and left me with the feeling of a good book well read! My thanks to publisher Pan Macmillan for my copy via NetGalley. This is my honest, original and unbiased review.
NovelKim More than 1 year ago
Why was I so surprised by the ending? The clues were there, forget the clues it was almost a hammer strike to the head. It was like a bolt of lightning and I am still wandering around wondering how I got so absorbed in the story that I missed the logical conclusion. That is the definition of great writing and Sir Jeffrey Archer is at the top of his game. The juxtaposition of the main characters with different lives in different countries over three decades was brilliant, interesting and engrossing. I charged through each section and then KAPOW that ending. Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an ARC
PBDeb More than 1 year ago
Heads You Win by Jeffrey Archer In a different approach, Mr Archer takes us on a tale of the lives of Sasha and Alexander who escape from Russian tyranny. A crate, several bottles of vodka and the toss of a coin take our protagonist(s) to America and England to make new lives for themselves and their mothers. Hard work, ingenuity and lots of luck lead them back to Russia, with an unexpected twist at the end. A little long to get to the climax, the reader must determine if it’s Sasha’s life that’s the real one, or is it Alexander’s as we follow them both through their transformations? Do not peek or you will ruin the story for yourself. Reviewed for#NetGalley
3no7 More than 1 year ago
“Heads You Win” by Jeffrey Archer is a story of a mother and son who escape oppression and political conflict in Russia and struggle for success in a new land. It is a universal story with an unexpected twist. Alexander Karpenko and his mother Elena are escaping Russia by stowing away on one of two ships leaving a Russian port. Where will they end up? They flip a coin, heads; you win and go to… Herein is the twist, what if? Where did Elena and Alexander (Alex/Sasha) end up? How would life in New York be different from the life in Southampton? Readers follow the mother and son over the years in two parallel scenarios. Alternating chapters (conveniently labeled with location, date, and name) tell the story of Elena and Alex in America, and Elena and Sasha in England. They struggle; they have successes, and they suffer setbacks. Each storyline is a compelling and wonderful scenario on its own. Readers get vivid picture of the people, the events, the politics, and the balancing act that goes on continually in the life of an immigrant family in both locations. The characters are well developed and multifaceted; readers quickly appreciate the complex circumstances that are certainly different, and yet similar in so many ways. The characters ask themselves is, “Would things have been different if we had gotten on the other ship?” Readers know, but still an unstated problem hangs over every page, which situation is the accurate representation? The more curious question is will the two storylines intersect? Important details remain for readers to discover, but questions are answered as the story comes to an unexpected but satisfying. I received a copy of “Heads You Win” from Jeffrey Archer, St Martin’s Press, The Pidgeonhole Book Club, and NetGalley. It is different approach to character’s journey, and I was captivated by both stories. The ending was stunning, explosive, and thought provoking. It is an interesting journey for readers, and I absolutely recommend reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My first impression of this book: typical Jeffrey Archer - a rambling story with lots of characters (think Clifton Chronicles - and I loved the references to the Barringtons and the Clifton novels) and lots of references to real people in history. But is also quite different. Beginning in 1968, the book opens in Leningrad. Alexander Karpenko lives with his mother and father, Elena and Konstantin, both of whom work at the Leningrad docks. Konstantin is not a member of the party but is surrounded by members who will do anything to gain favor. When Alexander’s best friend, Vladimir, overhears a conversation, he goes to the KGB and the tip results in an “accident” that kills Konstantin. Alexander and Elena are then assisted in escaping on a cargo ship that drops its cargo and leaves empty. There are two ships at the dock, one heading to England and the other to America. Which one should they get on? They decide to flip a coin. And then two stories ensue - one from each viewpoint in alternating chapters for the most part. The ship to the US is told from the eyes of Alexander while the ship to England is told from the standpoint of Sasha (Alexander’s nickname). Both are quite successful, one as a businessman and one as a member of government. And, while I had guessed the ending before finishing the book, it was an interesting way to end the story. Is this world class literature - no. Is it fun to read - absolutely. Thanks to St. Martins Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to review the ARC of this book.
lorimac More than 1 year ago
Heads You Win by Jeffrey Archer is absolutely on par with his other books I’ve read. He is a master story teller and this book proves it by the way he weaves the stories of one man into two very different lives. I usually don’t like politics and wouldn’t pick political books as my top choice to read, however, this book had me hooked from the very beginning. The research done is impressive (as usual) and the story kept my interest from start to finish. This is a tale of choices and without giving away spoilers, both choices are intriguing and lead to many twists and turns, ending in a way that really took me by surprise. I definitely recommend this book!
gmcootie More than 1 year ago
Heads You Win by Jeffrey Archer is a rich saga with strong, amazing characters and a stunning, explosive ending. It’s not often I read a book and sigh with such satisfaction at the end, glad I took the journey offered by the author. I hadn’t read anything by Jeffrey Archer in a while, so when I received a surprise copy of Heads You Win in the mail from the publisher I was thrilled with the win but not quite sure what I was in for. Well, what I was in for was a thrilling ride across exciting times in history and continents and cultures. Sasha and Alex settle in Britain and America but Russia is always a significant player in their lives. Alexander and Elena’s future looked bleak after Alexander’s father was killed. To be honest, their life seemed rather bleak even before that, but Alexander had such promise, such potential. What bravery it must have taken to decide to make that leap. I have to admit that it took me a couple of chapters to realize how the book was structured, that we would be jumping back and forth between Sasha and Alex now, but it brought a smile to my face knowing we would see the “What if’s” in the way only Jeffrey Archer can present them. In the beginning, especially, Alex and Sasha seemed very different. Were they shaped by their experiences on the boat and the way they were treated by each crew and those helping them to get settled in their new home? London was much gentler than New York; everyone seemed more authentic and less scheming, but there were challenges and rewards in both. And I couldn’t even begin to imagine how the two parts would come together. It wasn’t long, though, that I was so caught up in the story and the lives Sasha and Alex were leading that I forgot this was a What If and we didn’t know the result of the coin toss and instead just sat back and enjoyed the rolling tale of two lives. Heads You Win was a totally satisfying book with an ending I did not see coming. Alex/Sasha and Elena keep me engaged and wanting to know what would happen next and if their successes would continue or if darker forces would prevail. The supporting cast of characters – both good and evil – were well developed and believable. Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and Jeffrey Archer for providing many hours of enjoyment. I was not required to submit a review and all opinions are my own.