Saturday, 23 May 2015

Best Kept Secret - Book Review

Author: Jeffrey Archer
First Published: 2013

Well, I was through more than twenty five pages, when I picked up my phone to search about the book. Some minor references to certain characters and the prologue which was about a lineage dispute made me feel that there must have been a prequel to this book - Best Kept Secret.

 Turns out that it was the third part of ‘The Clifton Chronicles’. I was well aware about the titles of the other books, but never knew that they they together formed a seven book series. Most of these books had made it into the top 15 of the New York Best Sellers list. I even came to know that the book in my hand – ‘Best Kept Secret’ was inaugurated by Jeffrey Archer in Bengaluru and had made it to the first rank of New York Times best sellers list on the very first week of its release.

Now, coming to the story, it revolves around two families – Cliftons and Barringtons. For once, this is not a story of two families against each other, rather who are standing by each other. It’s about how the protagonists (yes, I mean more than one) fall into the hands of those who are bent down to destroy them. If you are thinking that there will be a lot many characters from each of the two families, then that’s not what you will be getting. Somehow I like reading books with a wide range of characters having different personas.

The story starts from a feud being settled  between Harry Clifton and Gyle Barrington, where the latter is pronounced to be the rightful descendent of the Barrington family. Harry and Gyle’s sister - Emma who are very much in love and already have a son Sebastian get married. Since I have not read the previous two parts of the Clifton series, I could not at first understand how Gyle and Harry were getting along so well even during the lineage feud. But the way Jeffrey Archer handles it is amazing. You really do not need to read the first two parts of this series to get a grasp of 'Best Kept Secret'.

Best Kept Secret is divided into seven parts:

Harry Clifton and Emma Barrington –  The story revolves around Harry and Emma’s pursuit to adopt Emma’s father’s illegitimate daughter and Harry’s tours to publicise his book so that he can make it to the top 15 list of New York Time’s best-selling books. On an altogether different note, the presentment of this narrative makes it evident that Jeffrey Archer knows a lot about making it to the NYT’s best seller.

Giles Barrington – This part is about Giles Barrington’s marriage to Lady Virginia (as she likes being referred to) and the property dispute that takes place between Giles and his sisters Emma and Grace following the death of their mother Elizabeth Barrington. The way the character of Virginia has been written might just get you to remind of some of the despicable people you must have met. However, I felt that the character of Grace was left a little less explored. Like I mentioned, I like reading about different personas.

Alex Fisher – One of the characters in this book who ties up with Virginia to bring down the Barrington family. He is also on the race to fight an election representing the Conservatives from Bristol, where Giles Barrington is the defending candidate from the Labor party. I am not exactly sure if he has a reference or a history from the previous books of this series.

Giles Barrington – The parliamentary elections are in place and Giles Barrington has to defend his seat from Alex Fisher. His family is behind him and he has to outplay Alex Fisher who comes out to be quite an intelligent man though driven by sinister motives.

Sebastian Clifton – How Harry and Emma’s son Sebastian Clifton - in spite of being a sharp student and a contender to getting a scholarship to Cambridge University falls into the wrong spot. The situation he falls into is partially of his own making. But here enters another antagonist of the story – Don Martinez Pedro, who wants to use Sebastian as a bait to smuggle a fortune to London from Buenos Aires – a Rodin statue which is worth more than the amount for which it can be bought.

Harry Clifton – A plot where Harry has to go down to Buenos Aires and meet his son who is now a mere pawn of Don Martinez Pedro’s game. The idea is to counter Don Martinez Pedro’s schemes and see to it that it falls apart.

Sebastian Clifton – This is a continuation to the previous plot on how the Rodin Statue – The Thinker is brought to London and if the plan to outplay Don Martinez Pedro becomes successful.

What I liked a lot about this book is the role that the minor characters play. Ray Compton, Barrington Company’s managing director and Ross Buchanan the new chairman of Barringtons, play a major role in devising a plan to outwit Alex Fisher. Sir Alan Redmayne – a cabinet secretary on the other hand is another minor character, but is the real brain behind countering Don Martinez’s plans.

The book spans from 1945 to 1957 and tells a story not just about one theme but a range of circumstances that the Barringtons and Cliftons face. You get an understanding that there must have been a prequel to the book and the book’s ending pages also suggest that there is a lot more in this story left to unfold. Fortunately this series is already complete (I hope so) so I can go ahead and finish the entire series, starting from the prequels.

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