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Heads You Win


Heads You Win

Jeffrey Archer is a gifted storyteller who can spin quite a yarn. His latest work, HEADS YOU WIN, is a stand-alone novel that takes us to Leningrad, Russia, in 1968. Alexander Karpenko is an extraordinarily intelligent and ambitious child; his goal is to become the first democratically elected president of Russia. From an early age, it is clear that he is on the right path to reach his destiny, but fate cruelly intervenes. His honorable father, who longs for democracy and equal rights, tries to form a trade union at the docks where he works, and the KGB assassinates him for daring to defy the status quo.

Alexander and his mother, Elena, realize that they must escape Russia if they hope to avoid the same fate. At the docks where Alexander’s uncle works, they have the opportunity to get into one of two container ships --- one is leaving for Great Britain, the other for America. Alexander decides to toss a coin for it (hence the book’s title), which is a very British tradition.

"[Archer's] writing is crisp and masterful, and the dialogue is so authentic that the words jump off the pages and compel the reader to keep going."

Whether it’s a door to an alternate universe or quantum physics, or just a quirk of fate, Archer taps into a double universe option for Alexander. In the first scenario, he and his mother go to London, where he attends Cambridge, becomes a member of Parliament, and is a politician who marries for love. In the other, they move to New York City, where he predictably becomes a hustler/entrepreneur, assumes the role of chairman of a bank, is involved in art work and high society intrigue, and marries for love.

After 30 years, these two lives dramatically collide in a last-minute shocking climax. And there is a final twist that rushes right into our current political world in the book’s last sentence.

Archer cleverly and skillfully weaves two disparate lives in two countries, and the protagonist switches between these versions. In both, though, he picks almost exactly the same possibilities. As the unique double stories unfold, Alexander realizes that he must face what he has been trying to avoid for years --- to fulfill his childhood goal of going back to Russia and running for political office.

HEADS YOU WIN is a bold, innovative concept and a risky technique few authors would attempt. Archer has always been an exception to every rule, and with this book, he proves it once again as he did with his partly biographical novel, KANE AND ABEL. His writing is crisp and masterful, and the dialogue is so authentic that the words jump off the pages and compel the reader to keep going. His characters remain faithful to his personal views: the men are honorable, the women are either strong and supportive or formidable opponents who do not hesitate to play dirty.

This deftly balanced, edgy novel --- with its dual storylines of immigration, achievement, backroom dealing, cutthroat politics, high society and patriotism --- will keep Jeffrey Archer in his top position as one of the best storytellers of our time.

Reviewed by Sonia Chopra on November 9, 2018

Heads You Win
by Jeffrey Archer

  • Publication Date: May 28, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 125021422X
  • ISBN-13: 9781250214225