Heads You Win by Jeffrey Archer
The latest novel from Jeffrey Archer is extremely clever, with a ‘Sliding Doors’ premise, where fate is decided on the toss of a cirn. The story opens in Leningrad in 1968, and after his father is assassinated by the KBG, Alexander Karpenko flees from Russia with his mother. At the docks, they are confronted with an irreversible choice: should they board a container ship bound for America or Great Britain? Alexander tosses a coin, and then their new lives begin.
In one version, Alex is called Sasha and he and his mother journey to London. Life is tough to begin with, but then he goes to Cambridge, his mother opens a successful restaurant, he marries for love and goes into politics. In the other version of the story, he goes to New York and becomes an entrepreneur; his mother opens a successful pizza parlour business, he marries for love and becomes involved in the banking and art worlds.
There are twists and turns a plenty in the book, as the story goes back and forth between London and New York in these two parallel lives, until 30 years on, Sasha and Alex return to Russia in an ending that you will either love or hate.
Heads You Win has romance, survival, immigrant striving, politics, business, art, intrigue, and lots of double-crossing. The characterisation is truly excellent, and it is a unique story in the way it is told. Playing with the idea of fate and choices, even Alexander in the book occasionally worries if he got into the best crate. It’s interesting seeing how similar his life is in some ways (support of his mother, marrying well, and his hard work and determination), but also how completely different his life is in other ways (education, vocation, social standing, and wealth to name just a few!)
Heads You Win is a page-turning, thrilling read that is both intriguing and enjoyable.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan
Macmillan, RRP $44.99