Former MP and prospective Mayor of London Jeffrey Archer's latest offering is an ambitious international thriller of expansive scope, a tale of espionage, intrigue and suspense at the very highest echelons of power. Archer wastes no time diving into his rollercoaster of a plot; we are introduced to our hero, Connor Fitzgerald, "the CIA's most deadly weapon", as he completes his mission--to assassinate a presidential candidate in Colombia. The far-reaching consequences of his act are not immediately apparent as he makes his way back to a loving wife and daughter and his life of "normality"--as far as they are concerned he is an insurance specialist--but in his inimitable style, Archer drives the plot along at speed, never lingering for longer than necessary as we are introduced to a succession of characters of great stature, ranging from the President of the United States to his headstrong CIA director and a new, extremist president in Russia. As the plot develops, Connor becomes ensnared in a political intrigue which will see him have to draw on all his wits and resourcefulness as he struggles for self-preservation and the safety of the free world as we know it.
One might assume that, given Archer's proximity to genuine political power for much of his life, he would be in a position to bring a greater realism to his story of high-stakes political manoeuvring than other authors without his experience. He certainly encourages this belief on his page of acknowledgements, which includes a former director of the CIA and FBI and a U.S. National Security Advisor. However, readers anticipating evidence of any great insight into this world should prepare to be disappointed--this is not where the strength of the book lies, although there are some nice touches, and a certain suspension of disbelief is necessary to get the best out of it. Mind you, one doesn't doubt that Archer's eleventh commandment, "Thou shalt not be caught", is a maxim many politicians and power-brokers, himself included, have lived their lives by. Where he does succeed, though, is in story-telling, with a relentless plot and the creation of a sympathetic, if barely plausible, central character capable of drawing readers in and carrying them, thrill-a-minute, to a dramatic, surprising and ultimately satisfying conclusion. --Alisdair Bowles