After the ‘Satyam Scandal’ misappropriation of funds and business frauds have suddenly caught pubic attention. With that, Jeffery Archer’s first book and an international bestseller, ‘Not a Penny More Not a Penny Less’ also seems to have acquired importance all over again. The book deals with a similar fraud, but here the wronged share holders do more than protest, they set out to retrieve their lost money, down to every penny.
The story starts with a tale of a street smart fellow, who was not among those favoured by nature, or the society. Coming from an underprivileged family Harvey Metcalfe was one of the rare enterprising, cunning men for whom money was the ultimate aim and ambition. And yes, in that respect he reached quite a pinnacle of success. By sheer manipulation at the stock market he set for himself a large empire.
Despite his misdeeds and almost a complete lack ethics or morality, one is forced to admire his shrewd intellect and quick successes though achieved by all the wrong means.
The story gains momentum when four cheated men conspire to undo their losses. The four individual plans and their execution keep the readers on their toes throughout the novel. Geographically placed across France, England and America the author has been rather witty while revealing the typicality of the cultures with the right amount of humour which makes the book quite a page turner.
Archer appears to have taken pains to study the traditions and structure of his locales. The book carries elaborate descriptions of the Victorian architecture of London sophisticated casino culture of France, Matriculation ceremony of oxford and other minute details including exact distances between places and time taken to reach them in different circumstances by different means etc. The element of romance remains rather subdued, but the story is certainly not devoid of it. It includes few short instances which are well spaced and do not shift the focus of the book from the main plot.
However, in parts the book becomes unrealistic and excessively dramatized. The perfect completion of every pursuit undertaken to retrieve the money at times attempts to take the reader for a ride. Also, the success of each plan shows us the weakness rather the vulnerability of Metcalf’s character which glaringly contrasts with initial shrewdness and prudence that was projected. Archer’s writing style despite the drama appears to be rather mechanised, with some irrelevant details which could easily have been skipped.
By the end of the book, readers witness quite a shock owing to an extraordinary coincidence, which gave space for the authors sense of humour, as the remaining part of the story has some hilarious scenes which are a welcome relief from the tensed excitement that is maintained throughout the book. The book ends on the most ironic not, with much uncertainty in the minds of its readers as to how they must react to such an ending. Few can find humour in the situation while others cringe at the idea of long drawn wasted efforts of the characters of the story. Over all it makes a very interesting read, carrying all ingredients of popular fiction. After all a bestseller is a best seller for a reason!