5 stars out of 5
Fans of the author's Clifton Chronicles series, like me, may hate to see it come to an end - it's rather like losing an old friend. For those who aren't familiar with the series, though, my suggestion is to pass on this one (or better yet, go back and read at least a few of the previous six). Why? Because while the author does a great job of wrapping up all the loose ends in the lives of the main characters, I think enjoyment and appreciation of the final product just won't be as satisfying for those who haven't been following along.
And while I absolutely loved the book, I will note, as I've done in describing other of these books - it is reminiscent of the Stone Barrington series by Stuart Woods (even the Barrington name is common to both). Mostly, it's the matter-of-fact presentation; no matter what happens, no one gets excited, bent out of shape or otherwise emotionally unhinged. Lost your job and your fortune? Bloody sorry, old chap. Unmarried and pregnant? Dreadful. Do you prefer Earle Grey or camomile?
The prologue here takes place in 1978, followed by a section on Harry Clifton and his wife Emma from 1978 to 1979, and at the end are chapters on Harry and Emma in 1992. In between are looks what's happening in the lives of other characters like Sir Giles Barrington and his wife Karin, Sebastian, Samantha and Jessica Clifton and Lady Virginia Fenwick (when it comes to the latter, I'm sure most readers are hoping she finally will get her comeuppance - but whether or not that happens isn't for me to reveal).
Early on, Harry brings an end to his popular book series, deciding instead to turn his attention to writing his best-ever work. Emma, who's spent the last 10 years as chairwoman of the Bristol Royal Infirmary, gets a call from none other than Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who offers her a job. Sir Giles, meanwhile, is ramping up his efforts as a member of Parliament on the opposing side - pitting him squarely against his sister Emma.
One of the endearing points of this book to me, in fact, is the inside look at British politics, some of which, as a personal aside, could well be applied to the current state of affairs here in the United States. Sir Giles, for instance, quips to his wife Karin: "...you have to understand that being a scoundrel is simply part of a politician's job description."
Then there are flashes of the past; Sebastian, who while waiting to visit a jail prisoner, reads a copy of the Daily Mail filled with photos of Prince Charles and Lady Diana talking at a garden party. "Diana looked really happy, while the Prince looked as if he was opening a power station," the accompanying story noted.
This Was a Man by Jeffrey Archer (St. Martin's Press, November 2016); 432 pp.