Jeffrey Archer

A Twist in the Tale

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A Twist in the Tale Summary

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A Twist in the Tale is a book of short stories by Jeffrey Archer. First published in 1988, this collection of mystery and thriller stories focuses on characters like philandering husbands and crooked financial ministers. The collection has been critically acclaimed and is still widely read by both thriller and mystery fans today. Archer is a prolific writer and storyteller, and his background as a politician informs his work. He was a Member of Parliament (MP) and Conservative Party Member until he was convicted of perverting the course of justice. His political career more generally was not without controversy.

There are twelve short stories in A Twist in the Tale, with each promising a twist at the end. The first story, “A Perfect Murder,” follows a man who believes he’s committed the perfect crime. The man is a writer who kills his mistress one evening during a heated argument. He kills her because he discovers that she’s been unfaithful to him. He refuses to go to jail for what he’s done, and so he concocts a plan to lay the blame on the other man.

The writer, however, doesn’t stop there. He ensures that he’s chosen as a jury member when the case calls to trial. When the judge asks for the verdict at the end of the trial, the writer is appointed the jury foreman and delivers the guilty verdict himself. At the end, the writer watches an innocent man being led away to serve a life sentence, while he simply moves on with his life.

The second story, “Clean Sweep Ignatius,” is about eradicating corruption from a country. The title character, Ignatius Agarbi, is known for his impressive morals, scrupulous ethics, and relentless honesty. It’s no surprise, then, when he’s appointed the new financial minister of his home country, Nigeria.

His first mission as financial minister is to break open a conspiracy in Switzerland. Nigerians are stashing money there, and the president wants to know who’s responsible. Ignatius, who’s determined to impress the president, travels to Switzerland with overzealous plans to extract information from the Swiss Bank.

However, no matter how hard Ignatius tries, the bankers won’t help him. Ignatius suddenly stops bullying them and hands over $5 million in cash. Ignatius skimmed this money over the last few months, and he wants to invest it somewhere safe. He knows that no matter what pressure the Swiss Bank is under, it won’t reveal confidential secrets.

“A la Carte,” the third story, follows a war hero returning home after conflict. All he wants to do is assimilate back into society. He returns to his old job as a car mechanic and is determined to provide for his only son, Mark Hapgood. Mark’s just finished high school and doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life, much to his father’s despair. Mark finally gets a job in a hotel. A turn of events leads to him working in the kitchen, where he finds his calling. His father is proud to know that because of him, his son got opportunities that he never had.

Story four, “Not the Real Thing,” follows a protagonist at odds with someone close to him. Gerald steals his friend Walter’s fiancé and becomes a prominent engineer, but the tables are turned when Walter dupes Gerald into making an expensive piece of jewelry that he then loses to a king.

Stories five, six, and seven are “Just Good Friends,” “The Steal,” and “Colonel Bullfrog.” “Just Good Friends” concerns a woman who meets her boyfriend, or so we’re led to believe until it’s revealed that the narrator is an animal. “The Steal” is about two teachers, a married couple, who travel abroad every year. However, it’s never an ordinary holiday, and they always steal something to keep as a memento. “Colonel Bullfrog” involves a British prisoner of war and a Japanese soldier who form a close and unlikely bond during WWII. No amount of conflict can keep them apart.

“Check Mate,” story eight, follows a young woman participating in a chess tournament. The narrator is obsessed with her. They play together after the tournament, and every time she loses a game, she must remove clothing. However, when the stakes are raised in the final game, she wins lots of money from the narrator, who was convinced she was a hopeless player.

Stories nine, ten, and eleven are titled “The Wine Taster,” “A Chapter of Accidents,” and “The Loophole.” In “The Wine Taster,” a man inherits a wine cellar even though he knows nothing about wine. He makes a fool of himself when he brags about his wine collection to people who know wine well. “A Chapter of Accidents” follows a man who sets up convenient and elaborate traps to snare a man having an affair with his wife, but he is the one who’s duped. In “The Loophole,” two famous best friends turn to enemies to make money, but it costs them dearly when the public catches on to their scheme.

In the twelfth and final story, “Christina Rosenthal,” a Jewish boy falls in love with a German girl, and they have a baby together. However, their families keep them apart, and the boy leaves a suicide note for his father to read every day for the rest of his life.