In any story, there’s a portion of yourself that goes into it. Whether it be someone from your past or a moment that stood out to you. And certainly Jeffrey Archer’s “And Thereby Hangs a Tale,” a collection of short stories, demonstrates this. He even admits in the author’s notes that most of the stories came from other storytellers. This wouldn’t be a big deal if there were more of Archer’s stories to balance them out.
There are fifteen stories altogether. Ten of them are marked with an asterisk, which I will refer to as “borrowed.” The remaining five are from his own imagination. The collection as a whole is solid. There’s a mix of humor, drama, and suspense. The characters are diverse from a blind man to a neroutic neighbor to a businessman-turned-golfer-turned-seaman. I had issue with the settings. The flap on the hardcover copy advertises a variety of locales. Most are set in England, which makes sense since that is where Archer is from.
So, the “borrowed” stories first. The one shining moment in them is how the author, whom I assume is Archer, interjects himself in these stories, giving a sense of authenticity. At the same time, that’s where they suffer. Most felt like info dumps. Some were direct, while some spat out factual details. Maybe to retain the authenticity, Archer might not have been allowed to tamper with them. It’s kind of a shame because there were a few stories that felt like they could be doctored up if allowed, like “Double-Cross” or “Caste-Off.” I was expecting more dialogue between the characters involved, not just the author telling the stories as he heard them.
The originals were the ones I was more interested in. “Blind Date” was a standout because of the way Archer uses other senses for his main character. “Better the Devil You Know” was hilarious. It reminded me of “The Devil’s Advocate” crossed with “Bedazzled.” And “No Room at the Inn” was fun. The main character has everything he really wanted given to him by women turned on by his charm. I was more interested in the originals than the borrowed. A few more wouldn’t hurt my overall opinion of the collection and I would learn more about Archer as a storyteller.
Overall, the collection is good. There’s a good balance in the themes and qualities. It loses points for not having the balance between the borrowed and original. The borrowed have a few jewels, the originals won me over. I just wish there was more of them.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5.