Fourteen stories, nine of which are based on incidents in real life, and a stunning preface entitled "Death Speaks" make this short story collection, the fourth of its kind by Archer, quite a read.
The stories are simple in style. No long words, abstruse dialogues or unexplained action here. Neatly-chiselled plots, an arresting narrative mode and always a final twist at the end - making the style used in this collection very much resemble that of writer O. Henry, also known as William Sydney Porter - give these stories a stylistic brilliance and a high suspense-value.
In a couple of paragraphs, Archer introduces a character, sketches him in roughly but colourfully, complicates his life a little - and in a flash, he's imprinted on our minds. We finish the story, and turn the pages, only to be introduced to another captivating pen-picture. The underlying theme in every story is of conflict. The characters battle variously with circumstances, their better judgement, relatives, apartheid, the law, the government, the system of heirarchy in a bank or a decision to catch a train.
Rest assured, that each little piece in this book will satisfy, titillate and pamper your curiosity, your basic need as a reader to "know what happened next".
Of the fourteen, my personal favourite is "Love At First Sight". This is perhaps because it builds up well in the beginning and has the most unimaginable end.This article was first published on 26 Jun 2000.