From Jeffrey Archer’s perspective why change an approach that seems to work very nicely. The approach I am speaking off is his storytelling ability that produces a wonderful family saga in the CLIFTON CHRONICLES with each volume ending in a cliff hanger that gently encourages the reader to pick up the next installment. In the present instance BEST KEPT SECRET ended with an automobile accident that resulted in the death of one of the passengers, but we are left wondering if Harry and Emma’s son, Sebastian has survived. In the next novel in the series BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR, Archer’s plot revolves around the Barrington family and the machinations of Don Pedro Martinez, an international criminal who blames Harry Clifton for the death of his son, and Alex Fisher who attended boarding school with Giles Barrington and continues to seek revenge against Giles and his family dating back to their days in boarding school and the loss of a recent parliamentary election.
As is the case in the first iterations of the Clifton’s, Archer segments the story into chapters that focus on a given character and allows them to tell the story from their perspective. Archer begins in the late 1950s with Harry and Emma taking the lead and moves on to Don Pedro Martinez, Cedric Hardcastle, a bluff Yorkshireman and dowdy old banker who plays a significant role, Major Alex Fisher, Giles Barrington, Sebastian and Jessica Clifton, and Don Pedro’s son Diego. Each character has their own agenda and through a series of complex machinations Archer builds disparate segments of the story which come together in a rather dramatic fashion.
Aside from Hardcastle, there are a number of impactful characters like Robert Bingham, the fish paste king; Clive Bingham his son who wants to marry Jessica; Cabinet Secretary Alan Redmayne; Samantha Sullivan who has fallen in love with Sebastian; Susie Lampton, Alex Fisher’s wife who is somewhat of a double crosser; Karl Otto Lunsdorf, a former member of the Nazi SS and Martinez’s righthand man, among others. Throughout the character development process, it seems that villains abound! Historical characters and events make their appearance on a regular basis including a cameo by Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and British Labour leader and future Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
The key addition that Archer makes is Cedric Hardcastle who is an example of how the author is able to shift the focus of the novel on a dime, a process that he repeats often. Hardcastle is the Chairman of the Farthing Bank and he will join forces with the Barrington’s to try and thwart Don Pedro Martinez and his sons. Martinez will never get over the death of his son despite the fact it is his own fault and seeks revenge against any and all Barrington’s. As the story evolves Archer adds a new element corporate greed through stock manipulation and other machinations. The British intelligence service is continually active in the novel as Sir Alan contemplates assassinating Martinez and is heavily involved in thwarting the Argentinian kingpin who likes to pose as an English gentleman. Further Archer integrates the Irish Republican Army into the storyline as they with Martinez in toe to do as much harm to Britain as possible. Another component that stands out is Jessica’s lineage as her adopted parents Harry and Emma have not made her aware of who her parents were which leads to complications.
Archer has the knack of creating scenes where the expected result becomes the unexpected, i.e., the Barrington Shipping Company’s Board elections to replace Ross Buckingham by Emma when Susan Fisher surprises everyone. Archer also continues to present an unremarkable prose, but one cannot take away from him his ability to surprise the reader over and over. As per usual the novel ends in a cliffhanger with the reader calling for a fifth volume of the CLIFTON CHRONICLES which happens to be MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD.