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    Review of A PRISONER OF BIRTH by Jeffrey Archer

    St. Martin's, March 2008

    Falsely accused of murdering his best friend, mechanic Danny Cartwright stands trial and is convicted. The evidence of three men, best-friends and drinking buddies, formed the critical evidence against him. Even the sworn word of his fiancee and the dead man's sister that one of those three, not Danny, committed the crime is not enough to convince the jury. After all, Danny was a poor mechanic and the three are affluent, successful, and University graduates.

    Sent to prison for twenty years, Danny shares a cell with an ex-soldier who teaches Danny the social graces--how to speak, how to eat and order in a posh restaurant, as well as encouraging him to pursue his education. Danny begins to model himself on his cellmate, Sir Nick Moncrieff and when Moncrieff dies, an apparent suicide, Danny is able to switch places with him, eventually enjoying release from prison. A free man, at least temporarily, Danny goes about a plan for revenge on the three men responsible for destroying is life, and that of his fiancee, Beth.

    Author Jeffrey Archer writes convincingly of both the English trial system and of English prison life. Danny's time, spent both improving himself and surviving in the tricky and dangerous world of prison makes for compelling reading. Once out of prison, Danny finds that he's got to reclaim Nick's life before he can go about destroying the lives of those who destroyed his own life. This portion of the story, and indeed much of the book is a clear homage to Andre Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo. Perhaps, however, Archer relied too much on the older story. Danny's attempts to ruin the three conspirators have consequences that stretch far beyond the three, consequences Danny ignored. Also, I would have liked to see a bit more cleverness on the part of Spencer Craig, the actual killer and mastermind.

    Overall, A PRISONER OF BIRTH made for compelling and page-turning reading. Both Danny and especially Beth are sympathetic characters and Danny's decision to refuse a plea bargain because it would make Beth out to be a liar is especially touching. I do wish Archer had dug a bit deeper into Danny's motivations and his growth as a person.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 3/23/08

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