Never thought I'd get sucked in to the scribblings of that infamous ex-con, Lord(?) Jeffrey Archer, but was looking for something to while away the last few minutes of the day whilst isolated in my neighbours' downstairs bedroom. I'd had my own private flood courtesy of the refrigerator, and a dozen suckers and blowers were attempting to dry out the whole house. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
Based on the flimsy premise that two cons sharing a gaol cell can be mistaken for each other, despite very different socio-economic backgrounds, it was not looking like my cup of tea. However, after a few chapters I was sucked in to the point of forgoing much needed sleep for several nights. Initially I had the fear that this would be a blood thirsty, sexually abusive romp, but my fears were unfounded.
Danny Cartwright is framed for murder by several members of the upper class. Sir Nicholas Moncrieff and Big Al, his two cellmates, have fallen foul of Army protocol whilst fighting in the Serbian/Albanian wars. A court martial resulted in both being imprisoned.
As usual, there is a variety of prisoners as well as prison officers in the gaol, and Archer had real life experience to draw upon. Undoubtedly some of his characters are overblown depictions of these folk, and one would have expected an air of menace to pervade the prison rather than the jolly-hockey-sticks atmosphere of a lending library where Danny is the golden boy.
Throughout Danny's trials and tribulations, his faithful fiancée, Beth Wilson, remains true to him, although he tries to shake off any connection in fairness to her. Amongst the novel's characters there are those who are simply too good to be true. Even the rough Big Al turns out to have a heart of gold as well as a much softer side. Not going to give the game away there.
The bottom line is that good triumphs over evil despite Danny's lowly position on the class ladder. Unfortunately some of the goodies have to meet an untimely demise along the way. Ironically members of the upper class are Danny's saviours. Apart from his inherent goodness of course. Next reading challenge? Something by the recently departed popular writer, Bryce Courtenay? Or maybe the Da Vinci Code, which my dear daughter blames for wasting several precious hours of her life she wishes she could recover.