cover image As the Crow Flies

As the Crow Flies

Jeffrey Archer. HarperCollins Publishers, $22.95 (617pp) ISBN 978-0-06-017914-4

Practiced raconteur Archer ( Kane & Abel ) engagingly presents the rags-to-riches story of Charlie Trumper, a man who learns to buy and sell by working at his grandfather's vegetable cart in the early 1900s. He and his devoted wife Rebecca quickly become known for fair but cunning business practices as they purchase shops and determinedly develop a department store encompassing most of a London block. They have dangerous enemies, however: Guy Trentham, Charlie's traitorous WW I nemesis and the philandering father of Rebecca's illegitimate son, and Ethel, his wealthy and ruthless mother, both trying to protect the tarnished Trentham family name by undermining those who know of Guy's misdeeds. The Trumpers cut a predictable path through the early years, comfortable and optimistic despite the Trenthams' attempts to foil them; later, legal wranglings, tragedy and questions of patrimony decades old threaten the Trumper empire, while the reader, privy to solutions thanks to dramatic irony, roots in earnest for the good guys. His prose simple and direct, Archer spins a compelling yarn with well-drawn characters, suspenseful pacing and interesting background detail of England's social classes. 300,000 first printing; major ad/promo; Literary Guild main selection; author tour. (May)