If it weren't for the success of Archer's Kane and Abel/Prodigal Daughter saga, would this collection of eleven...



If it weren't for the success of Archer's Kane and Abel/Prodigal Daughter saga, would this collection of eleven stories--published in Britain a couple of years ago--ever have arrived here? Probably not. But, while Archer's family-melodrama fans will certainly be disappointed, admirers of the Very Old-Fashioned Short Story à la Maugham should enjoy a few of these pleasant, unpretentious, one-twist tales, all but one of which are ""based on known incidents."" The best two are among the briefest, with genuine surprises quickly earned: in ""The Chinese Statue,"" a supposedly priceless Ming treasure is followed through four generations of English ownership; and ""Broken Routine"" features an obsessively orderly London executive, a nasty commuter-train encounter, and a deft bit of narrative sleight-of-hand. Elsewhere, however, the payoffs are awfully limp--especially in the cases of ""One-Night Stand"" (two English pals try to bed the same N.Y. divorcee) and ""The Luncheon"" (which does offer an effective evocation of expensive-restaurant terror). And, in slightly longer stories, Archer belabors a single, cartoony notion into tedium: the love/hate relationship of a devoted, competitive academic couple; the post-WW II humiliations of the Grand Pasha of Cairo, who no longer automatically gets the royal treatment everywhere he goes. Still, except for one truly embarrassing item--a birth-of-Jesus whimsy with a groaner of a punchline--Archer delivers the simple ironies and sentimentalities here with glossy professionalism; and the variety of backgrounds (Hungary circa 1963, a Manhattan gentleman's club, road construction in Mexico) helps to make this an agreeable little batch of light-reading playlets, even if the engaging build-ups most often lead to ho-hum fade-outs. (For far zingier variations on the twist short-story, see Frederick For-syth's No Comebacks, p. 288.)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 1982

ISBN: 1429954159

Page Count: -

Publisher: Linden/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1982