Over My Dead Body by Jeffrey Archer

Going rogue…

🙂 🙂 🙂

DCI William Warwick has been assigned to the Met’s new Unsolved Murders Unit – a crack team that will look into cold cases. But first he’s off on a cruise to New York with his art expert wife, Beth. It turns into a busman’s holiday when a fellow passenger, the man who heads up the cruise-line, dies, and Warwick is asked to look into his death to decide whether he may have been murdered by one of his family looking to get their inheritance sooner rather than later. Warwick is also on the trail of his old nemesis, Miles Faulkner, whose funeral he attended not long ago, but who now seems to have returned from the dead.

Well! There’s so much going on in this one that it’s quite hard to summarise. And while it starts out intriguingly with the murder mystery on the ship, it transpires that that storyline is simply in the nature of an appetiser, while the main course is the Miles Faulkner story, and the cold case murders are merely side dishes. It also turns out this is the fourth book in the William Warwick series and clearly the main story started in the earlier books, with the result that I had no idea what crime Faulkner had originally committed. It didn’t really matter though – the whole plot became so ludicrous as it went along that I didn’t feel I was missing much by just having to accept that Faulkner was the boo-hiss pantomime villain.

The book is set in the 1980s, which I suppose gives Archer some leeway in allowing the police to behave in ways that wouldn’t be tolerated today, though I’m fairly confident that even in the Met’s wilder days they weren’t too keen on officers going rogue and meting out vigilante justice all over the place, fitting someone up for a crime here, or provoking a gang war there, or flying all over Europe breaking local laws. Not that Warwick does any, or maybe that should be many, of these things – his nickname is “choirboy”. And he’s an awfully nice, well educated, kinda posh chap with lots of connections in high places, which makes it all the odder that he appears willing to turn a blind eye to what his team members are getting up to. I couldn’t help wondering if the courts would convict any of the criminals given the level of illegal skulduggery and shenanigans the police got up to in order to trap (or perhaps, entrap) them.

It’s a quick, easy read, and if you can tune out reality, then it’s reasonably good fun. I sped through it in a couple of evenings, and enjoyed it enough to stick with it to the end. But it goes so far over the credibility line in the latter stages that I really couldn’t take it seriously as a thriller – it began to feel as if it was spoofing itself, though I’m certain that was not the intention. I also have an old-fashioned preference for the good guys to behave better than the bad guys and that certainly is not the case here, which would have been less of a problem had Archer not made it so clear that we are supposed to admire and approve of the way the rogue police officers were behaving.

Jeffrey Archer

This is the first Archer I’ve read in many years, and although I found it quite readable, it hasn’t inspired me to read more. The tone is light, with supposedly likeable characters and some humour, and yet the deeds get progressively darker. Had it been written in noir style the transgressions of the police wouldn’t have jarred, but the whole spirit of the ends justifying the means didn’t sit well with the almost cosy portrayal of Warwick as a loving husband and father and a respected police officer with a reputation for integrity. An odd mix.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, HarperCollins.

Amazon UK Link

48 thoughts on “Over My Dead Body by Jeffrey Archer

  1. Hmmm….I think there’s a bit too much setting aside of disbelief for my particular taste, FictionFan. But still, I can see how there’d be some fun in this one, and I do like stories with a ‘cold case’ link. Something about those older crimes that appeals to me. At any rate, I’m glad you found some things to like, even if this wasn’t exactly true-to-life…

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    • He’s one of these writers who is very readable – good flow – but then you’re left kinda wondering if it was worth it. Still, books like this are good for times when you just want to relax for a few hours, and can switch off the credibility monitor for a bit.

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    • He’s very readable – good flow, and you don’t need to think hard, so reading him is quite relaxing. But too far over the credibility line for me, and I’m not a fan of vigilante cops, in real life or fiction!

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  2. I loved Archer’s Kane and Abel and its sequel, but it’s been years since I read them and I’ve never really thought about reading any of his other books. I’m not very tempted by this one, but I’m glad you still found things to enjoy in it.

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    • I remember loving Kane and Abel and one or two of his other earliest books back in the day, but this one didn’t seem nearly as good – though whether that’s because he’s changed or my tastes have, I’m not sure!

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  3. This is a series I do mean to try once at least. I do see how the cosy setting vis-a-vis police transgressions would jar. Let’s see what I make of it. It’s been ages since I last read Archer but I used to enjoy his books a fair bit.

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    • I enjoyed some of his early books but this is the first I’ve read in years and it didn’t seem up to the standard of those early ones. However, whether it’s that he’s changed or my tastes have, I’m not sure! Certainly I found this very readable, but it went too far over the credibility line for me, and I’m never a fan of vigilante cops! I’ll be interested to hear how you get on with it… 😀

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  4. Well…. I’m not really tempted, but if I were, I think I’d have to start the series from the beginning. I hate not understanding things that are clearly backstories. At least that didn’t matter for you!

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    • I’ve always been a jumper-in-er so I’ve learned to cope with not knowing the backstories, and largely it didn’t matter in this one. Though most authors manage to give enough hints for readers to get a good idea of what happened in previous episodes, but Archer didn’t here.

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    • I remember enjoying some of his early books a lot, but this one didn’t seem nearly as good – though whether it’s that he’s changed or my tastes have, I’m not sure. As you say, though, there are other authors I enjoy more…

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  5. Not tempted by this at all, I’m becoming too cinicle for the whole suspend disbelief thing, though oddly enough, I have wondered a couple of times about Kane and Abel, as I have heard it is actually quite a good book of its kind, not least from my mother. Did you ever read that one during your previous reading of Archer?

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    • I’m fed up with the rogue cop thing – it’s been done, and only really belongs in noir or at least darker fiction than this was aiming to be. Yes, I remember absolutely loving Kane and Abel back in the day, though for the life of me I can’t remember anything about the story now! And my mother loved it too! But I also enjoyed a few other of his early books, so I don’t know whether it’s that he’s changed or I have – this one didn’t seem nearly as good to me as my memory of those early ones.

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    • I really enjoyed some of his early books back in the day, but this one didn’t seem as good – don’t know whether it’s that he’s changed or I have, though! No, it’s not a series I’ll be pursuing either…

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  6. I listened audio versions of a couple of his books years ago and didn’t stick with them until the end, not an author for me I’m afraid. But the first plot line sounds kind of fun! (Rumpole would tear them apart in court though.)

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    • I remember enjoying some of his early books a lot, but whether it’s that he’s changed or I have, this one didn’t seem nearly as good. Ha, I was enjoying the shipboard murder mystery and was really annoyed when it turned out not to be the main story! You’ve reminded me I have a Rumpole audiobook on my TBL! 😀

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  7. I also haven’t read Archer for decades, but didn’t stop because I disliked him, as many of your respondents appear to have done, but basically I forgot about him. I’ve ordered the first three in this series, to show willing.

    FictionFan was sllghtly dismissive of this book – but not so much as many of the contributors – , but apparently had not read those books which went before in this series.

    I also begin to wonder if I am the only literate bloke on the planet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember really enjoying some of his early books, and then I stopped because he went to prison and I disapproved of him in my morally righteous youthfulness! 😂 This one didn’t seem nearly as good as my memory of those early ones, though whether he’s changed or I have, I’m not sure. I hope you enjoy the series when you get to it! I didn’t mind not knowing the backstory since I’m notorious for jumping in in the middle of series (largely because I get sent random review copies of books), but I would quite like to have known what the baddie did to become the detective’s nemesis…

      Haha, there aren’t too many men in the book blogosphere, that’s for sure! Unfortunately it also means that there are far more reviews of women writers. That’s badly phrased – I don’t mean I wish there were fewer reviews of women writers, but that there were more of male writers too! Do you blog, Ken?

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      • I don’t blog, FF; I read (have done for several decades) and occasionally react and say something I think relevant. I once went through a tolerant phase of ignoring Americans’ inability to spell. That was a long time ago and I won’t be trying again.
        I agree with your opinion of Updike, and almost certainly his novel: I don’t like filth masquerading as quality writing.
        The things they ask you to do. FF.

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        • Blogging is fun but it’s also very time-consuming. I actually used to read more books than I do now because of the time I spend writing reviews and reading other people’s blogs. But I enjoy it. Ha, there are a few American writers on my never again list for similar reasons to Updike, but I’ve enjoyed some too. I shall be more careful to read reviews before picking them in future though!

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  8. I read some of his books years ago and enjoyed them. So I was interested when I saw that he had started a new series about William Warwick – Nothing Ventured, and read it a few years ago. I thought it was OK but bland and predictable. I wasn’t inspired to read any more of the series – it seems I was right not to.

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  9. Great review! I was a fan of his Clifton Chronicles series but this new character and series doesn’t seem as inspiring. He’s quite hit or miss and it’s a shame that his newer books aren’t holding up as much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! 😀 This is the first of his I’ve read in many years, though I remember enjoying his early books a lot. Glad to know you feel the newer ones aren’t holding up as well – I couldn’t decide if he’d changed or if I’d got more picky.

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  10. I’ve never read a Jeffrey Archer book, but I’ve always been curious about him. Surprising that this is so far over the credibility line? I hate when that happens, it feels a bit lazy on the author’s part.

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