I have to admit I’ve never read anything by Jeffrey Archer, most likely because I tend to avoid blockbuster novels. But the setting and time period of this one intrigued me, and not realizing this was the first of a seven book series known as the Clifton Chronicles, I figured why not.
Set after WWI, Only Time Will Tell opens with a charming idyll set around the Bristol docks, introducing us to Harry Clifton, brilliant and truant boy who would much rather spend his days trundling after his dockworker uncle, or listening to the yarns and wisdoms of Old Jack Tar, a Boer War veteran and hero.
Thereafter the novel progresses through varying viewpoints until the final, dastardly conclusion is drawn, or rather not drawn, because Archer employs an almost vaudevillian cliffhanger ending, so obviously designed to have the reader panting to purchase the next in the series. Didn’t work on me. I don’t like cheap sales tricks.
And after that first introduction to Harry, things degenerated to stereotypes, old tropes, and blatant commercialism. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a decent read for a lazy day if you don’t want to be challenged and just want to escape. But I’m afraid I’m always looking for a little more from what I read. And by the time Archer had illustrated for the umpteenth time what a perfect, honourable, and brilliant boy is our erstwhile protagonist, Harry Clifton, I’d had about enough of this too-good-to-be-true cardboard figure.