I must confess that I have been a fan of Archer’s books for quite a while and enjoyed being pulled into them, unable to put them down. “Heads You Win” frankly left me wondering why he would try the experiment that he did in this book. The details of the story are, as usual well researched and carefully constructed, but the method was not really to my taste.
Alexander Karpenko was born in Leningrad and grew up there residing in a small apartment with his mother and father. His thoughts were of going to work as a laborer and perhaps becoming a foreman someday. Fate intervenes when his father is assassinated by the Russian KGB after beginning to form a union to aid the workers he supervises. Elena, Alexander’s mother had worked as a chef in the kitchen preparing the meals for the workers in his father’s crew. She now has to work more hours and catches the eye of a supervisor who has lusted after her and now feels free to begin forcing her to do his will since her husband is dead. Alexander sees him backing his mother into a corner and smashes him with a board to save her.
This is the prelude to the story and the experiment tried by Mr Archer. Alexander’s uncle steps in and helps him and Elena flee Russia. Getting them to the docks where two ships are preparing to sail and Alexander has to choose which one to go on. One is bound for Southampton and the other to New York. Two concurrent stories are told throughout the remainder of the book. One in which the pair board the ship bound for England and the other for the United States. In one story Alexander enters politics and in the other becomes a businessman. He is successful at both endeavors and we follow him and Elena as they progress in their new lives.
It appeared to me that Archer had the makings of two separate books just by changing the names of the characters involved in one. Following along is not the problem it would seem to warrant and that is the best reason to finish the book. I’m sure that the author meant this as an experiment knowing that his reputation would support sufficient interest. I admire the attempt, but trust that Jeffrey Archer will keep to his normal format and his usual method of keeping his readers mesmerized.
There must be a logical ending to this novel and that it is, but flat and my reaction was ????
11/18 Paul Lane
HEADS YOU WIN by Jeffrey Archer. St. Martin’s Press (November 6, 2018). ISBN 978-1250172501. 448p.