The Clifton Chronicles has been on my mind lately as the release of the fifth book in the series has kept reminding me I need to catch up as I had only read books one and two, so with a view to catching up before too many future spoilers appeared I decided to delve into Book 3, Best Kept Secret.
Jeffrey Archer remains one of those authors we all know we should be disapproving of, he has had a more colourful past than most of his fictional characters, but somehow you just cannot help but admit he writes an amazing grand saga and The Clifton Chronicles has proven no different. In Book 3 we pick up directly after the end of the cliffhanger from Book 2 where the House of Lords is trying to decide who should inherit the family title and all its wealth. We find best friends,and potential half brothers, Harry Clifton and Giles Barrington awaiting their fate. From the outset the books zips along at an alarming pace, its constant action. Just as you think you are about to catch breath another twist comes in and you are pulled off into another intriguing plot twist and its very difficult to put down.
There is perhaps one criticism is would make and I do with a nod towards the fact this type of big family saga almost demands this but at times the characters can be a little one dimensional. Heroes and villains play their roles in almost fairy tale style. The villains almost come with a soundtrack of comedy villain music and they interact with each other in such a predictable manner that at times its a little bit too much and it would be nice to have characters with more complexity than the simple “they’re a good person, they’re a bad person” scenario.
The books never feel overly long in this series but that is merit more to their gripping stories than any shortcomings on the writers part, they engage you so fully that its so easy to say you’ll read for 10 minutes but find yourself tearing yourself away an hour later then relenting with a promise of “just one more chapter?”. Archer has learned that by setting amazing cliffhangers at the end of each book in the series means he’s guaranteed we will all be desperate for more and this installment was no different, the joy for myself though is should I choose to I could resolve the suspense immediately but for those who read at time of release it must have been torture.
Archer is like a guilty little secret, you know you really shouldn’t love him as an author, he’s not that intellectually stimulating nor is he all that likeable a man but I just love that good old fashioned family backstabbing as per 80’s big budget TV shows and I’d be quite surprised if some TV company wasn’t already considering adapting this series for TV. Its good, innocent romps through the wars and family power and is written in an amazingly engaging way.