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Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less
Business, Conspiracy, Deceive
Four men were conned - a Harley Street doctor, an Oxford professor, a Bond Street art dealer and an heir to earldom. The conman - Harvey Metcalfe, expert at his field, a shrewd business man. After finding themselves penniless overnight, the four men decided to get even with Metcalfe and get their money back - not a penny more, not a penny less.
"Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less" is Jeffrey Archer's first novel. It was published in 1976. The story was set after the World War II. Harvey Metcalfe started as a messenger boy in New York, delivering messages for stock brokers on Wall Street. This was the start of his trade. He jumped into the business world, learning everything while working, without any formal education. Years later, he conned $1,000,000 from four men. He had gotten away with similar frauds before. But this time around he conned the wrong men.
The four men - Stephen, Robin, Jean Pierre and James, who were experts in their fields, had nothing to lose. Using their skills, they strategised with great details to get their money back. Their plans included a fake Van Gogh, a fake surgery, Oxford Encaenia and love, brought them to Monte Carlo, Oxford and Boston. The four strangers had a sole purpose - get even.
Like most of Jeffrey Archer's book that I've read, this one is just as detailed. Archer's simple but detailed descriptions of the characters, their predicaments, their actions and the surroundings are the reason why the book is enjoyable - even if I have never lived in that era. Archer started by telling Metcalfe's story, giving the readers the chance to look into the antagonist's life before everything else. This was followed by Metcalfe's decision to expand his business across the Atlantic into oil exploration in the North Sea and the beginning of the four men's predicament. The next few chapters focused on the protagonists and the planning and rehearsing. Metcalfe's character returned and all the characters came together for series of deceptions. Archer ended the story with a twist - a good one at that.
In comparison with his other books, this book is slightly on the lighter side. "Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less" did not settle in just one industry, unlike his other books. So there isn't really much technical terms and business jargons that were included. But, the number of characters introduced in the book and the descriptions of the deceptions complicated it a little - definitely not for light reading.
What I love?
Jeffrey Archer's way of writing. It is descriptive but simple, making it easy to understand. His way of writing drew me into the world that he was creating, setting every single characters and the events in my imaginative mind.
Imagine the movie 'The Italian Job' set in the 1970s.
What I hate?
The missing climax. The reason why I love reading Jeffrey Archer's is the satisfaction that I get at the end of the book. Like when Abel found out who had been funding his business all along in 'Kane and Abel' and when Keith Townsend's business survived while Armstrong's didn't in 'The Fourth Estate'. I can't figure out which part of the book is actually the peak point of the story. Maybe it was meant to be subtle as the book followed four deceptive schemes. Or maybe perhaps this was Archer's early days.
Four men decided to take revenge on the man who conned them of $1,000,000. They wanted their money back - not a penny more, not a penny less.
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