Book: The Eleventh Commandment
Author: Jeffrey Archer
I read this a long time ago. Got my hands on it again this past year, so re-read it. My first Archer novel and, boy, was I a happy man when I was done with it! Surprisingly, I loved this one much more than the fabled Kane & Abel. Kane & Abel was good, no doubt about it, but somewhere it lost me. There was just too much of sleeping around for my liking. If you get what I mean.
So, Eleventh Commandment was this brilliant world of spying and assassination that only MacLean could provide before I landed with an Archer. To my surprise, again, Archer’s stories had a lot of more twists and turns compared to THE ONE BIG surprise in the usual MacLean. I’m sorry if I compare two completely different writers from different eras and having different styles. Where MacLean is rugged and cowboy material who would shoot you in the gut with a sawed off handgun at close range, Archer is usually a decent middle class townie, with an equally distinguished background, who would play it perfectly and bind them instead of shooting them; where MacLean’s style borders on the romantic when he delves into the foaming frothing sea (any one who has read MacLean will know what I speak of), Archer is quick, succinct and to the point. He’s not the kinds to describe his surroundings.
I only compare them because if I was asked to pick a favourite, within this particular genre, (without being biased, that is) I’d’ve difficulties doing so.
The book’s tag line is “Thou shalt not be caught” which is the reference to the ominous “Eleventh Commandment” of the CIA. Connor Fitzgerald, a war veteran, a respected field officer and an honourable American is caught in the political net of the CIA when it’s director assigns an unwanted “hit”. The hit being the potential president of Columbia. Helen Dexter, the director in question, is in an uncomfortable situation when the President of America starts questioning her regarding the assassination. It obviously infers that the American President will have a hand in the murder of a potential candidate of a neighbouring nation who isn’t ready to align himself with the American policy!
Only thing is the poor old Pres has no clue about it. He doesn’t like the game of tag that Helen has played. Helen plays her cards seeing the good for American soil. Only thing, she’s the only one with that wonky vision, which is just “good” for the nation but “brilliantly awesome” for her!
When Dexter feels the fire creeping to her bums (and her directorship at the CIA) she sends Fitzgerald into another assignment. A more dangerous and more astounding and adventurous killing turning Fitzgerald into a household name. This ominous order comes from the President himself who makes him believe that this would be his last assignment after which he can have the retirement he dreamt of. Fitzgerald, the lover of the Speckled Band, accepts and goes to his final hit after which he can comfortably enjoy a desk job so he can spend time with Maggie and Tara, his wife and daughter. Dexter, with an amazing plan under her kitty and various Yes Men around her goes ahead with her plan. She plans to do away with all proofs of her wrong doings and get a kick out of the fact that she bummed the President.
The story has enough twists and surprises to keep one going. The characters are flat with nothing extra ordinary to talk about. The emotional quotient is high though. They’re in line with the intended audience, from 14-17 years, who’d go teary eyed and feel all pumped up about the “truth” and “honour” of everything under the Sun. The relationship between Maggie and her husband is loving and clean and of that between Tara and her father is sweet. Then, there are enough tertiary characters to keep the story’s tempo in a high gear. There’s Jackson who needs special mention for his heroics. An example of an unsung hero, that one. Then there is the involvement of the Russian Mafia which is to be taken lightly because of the way Archer has portrayed them.
The best part about any Archer novel is the language. He writes effortlessly and smoothly concocting the ingredients into an agreeable chow. He writes in a crisp manner. He’s quick. He’s to the point. And he’s a pleasure to read. Every writer possesses a unique style to writing and Archer has his own typical style. Now, by typical I don’t mean that I’ll successfully pick out Archer from a vichyssoise of paragraphs from sundry. All I mean is that his style commands a certain respect because he’s an easy author to read. One doesn’t need a dictionary on standby to read him.
The best way to gauge how good an author is with his landscaping and his creative psyche is to read his short stories. Archer’s “A Quiver Full of Arrows” is an example. We’ve reviewed it here.