cover image The Collected Short Stories

The Collected Short Stories

Jeffrey Archer. HarperCollins Publishers, $26 (599pp) ISBN 978-0-06-019224-2

Surprise endings are the stock-in-trade of former Tory MP, current candidate for mayor of London and prolific novelist Archer (The Fourth Estate). These 36 stories, culled from his three previous collections (12 Red Herrings, A Twist in the Tale and A Quiver Full of Arrows), contain many a good yarn in plots that feature numerous trial scenes, business dealings and complicated domestic relationships. Highlights include the suspenseful car chase in ""Never Stop on the Motorway""; the snappy intellectual repartee between two rivals that camouflages their deep feelings for each other in ""Old Love""; and the sudden twists and turns that ensue when a cuckolded businessman strikes back in ""Trial and Error."" Not one to shrink from stylistic challenges, Archer ably pulls off a tale of heartbreak in the form of a long letter in ""Christina Rosenthal."" His take on an entertaining man-meets-woman story in ""One Man's Meat... "" concocts four different endings that humorously illustrate the very real possibilities one might have to confront in the wake of a chance social encounter. Clever and entertaining, these tales make a good candidate for holiday gift giving. (Dec.)