A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer

A Prisoner of BirthA Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Danny is a poor boy from the East End of London (a poor, Cockney area for my fellow Yanks) who is set to marry his pregnant love Beth when he is involved in a bar fight. His friend is killed by some rich Etonian toffs. When the police arrive the toffs claim Danny did it. He goes to jail for murder. His cellmate Nick is a toff, too, but a true gentleman convicted unjustly somehow as an officer in the army for failing to properly lead his men in battle. Nick and Danny become close friends. The story revolves around Danny finding a way to get out and get revenge on the murderous toffs.

The story line is hokey beyond belief, but if you can indulge in the ridiculous fantasy of it, it’s entertaining enough. The characters are all stereotyped. Danny is poor but hard-working, the rich toffs greedy and dishonest, the police incompetent and biased against the poor, the lawyers are split 50-50 between venal cads (on the toff side) and kindhearted strategic geniuses who work for years for no pay (on Danny’s side). None of it is remotely believable.

I was struck by the seeming anachronism throughout the book. The overwhelming class disparity and much of the language made me think the action was taking place in the Edwardian era until mention was made of the 9-11 attack. Is there really that much class disparity in modern-day England?

The book was a choice by my book club, so mandatory reading, but I am not inclined to read more Jeffrey Archer.

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