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Anna, working in one of the towers, is able to fake her own death. Archer has had problems with taste before, when he employed Senator Edward Kennedy as the object of an assassination plot in Shall We Tell the President? Using Bin Laden's mass murders as a plot device raises an even greater queasiness, especially as the dramatisation of the events is limited to perfunctory descriptions of people jumping off roofs or becoming engulfed in smoke. Archer's writing has often seemed prone to a brisk heartlessness, and never more so than here.

False Impression

Anna, thinking of friends who work in the buildings, reflects: As well as charmlessness, Archer's other weaknesses as a novelist are also present. Possibly the most contrived clue in all crime fiction is that Anna has carefully unstitched the letter P from her jogging shirt to disguise the fact that she attended Pennsylvania University. Unfortunately, the outline of the give-away initial remains. Is it churlish to wonder why she didn't just buy another running shirt?

Archer also continues to have a Van Gogh's ear for speech.

Although the conversations are explicitly taking place in , the phrasing seems to date from decades earlier as characters snap "damn the woman! The sadness of Archer's writing career is that a taut and absorbing crime story - Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less - was followed largely by bloated family yarns.

False Impression is closer to his beginnings, and the smart plotting of the heist suggests that the novelist may have picked up useful data from cell-block colleagues. Unfortunately, he seems not to have signed up for remedial English.


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The following correction was printed in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications column, Saturday 4 March Just as she is being escorted out of her office in the North Tower, a plane crashes into it. Sadly, this is where inspiration ends and the story loses steam.

With plot twists so sheer as to be evident even to novices and not a single red herring in sight, the only mystery remaining in this watery read is whether this can indeed be the same veteran author who once astounded readers with such dashing, deviously plotted books such as Kane and Abel , Honor Among Thieves , and Not a Penny More.

False Impression -- book review

However, the story does have some bright spots. His prose becomes almost lyrical when describing the various countries Petrescu goes through and the world of Impressionist art, its collection, transportation and history.

Kermode Uncut: False Impressions

These points, together with a non-stop pace of action and some suspense, may well redeem the book in the eyes of new readers, although ardent fans will be hard put to give this diluted read a place in the keeper shelf.