Cat O’Nine Tales Book Review
While I’m still in the process of going through non-fiction book number 3, I got bored. I can’t read non-fiction in a single setting like I can read fiction. I just can’t. Judge me all you want, but, well...
Anyway, when I get bored of reading a non-fiction book, I, of course, pick up a fiction book. And this always happens. So, at any point, I’m usually reading two books! But I digress.
This time, instead of re-reading a random book, I picked up a short story book: Cat O’Nine Tales. It has 12 real stories of real people (with some creative liberties, of course!) whom Archer met during his two-year stint in prison.
And before you ask, yes. He was in prison. For two whole years. Five different prisons, to be precise. And when he was there, he picked up stories from his fellow prisoners, which he has compiled into this one book.
With amusing story names like “The Man Who Robbed His Own Post Office” and “It Can’t Be October Already”, some of the stories are really good.
The Man Who Robbed His Own Post Office (the name says it all) is quite absorbing, and so are Don’t Drink The Water (where a successful corporate guy tries to poison his own wife), Charity Begins at Home (where a man and his girlfriend steal lots of money), The Commissioner (where a con artist tries to use the police chief as bait in his latest scam), and In The Eye of The Beholder (a nice sort-of-romance story).
Most of these still have disappointing endings (or, at least, not awesomely clever endings like the ones in Archer’s usual books), but that’s understandable because these stories are real.
But the others? They just fall flat. Completely.
“Maestro”, a story about an Italian restaurant owner who’s laundering money, is okayish, but it’s not exciting at all.
“It Can’t Be October Already” is about a guy who ends up in prison for a petty crime…and knows all the prison staff. It starts off with an air of mystery, but by the time the mystery is solved, you end up disappointed, scratching your head and asking, “Is that it?”
“The Red King”, a story about a con man who finds out about a priceless chess set, had so much potential! But it drags on and on to a disappointing non-ending.
“The Wisdom of Solomon”, a story about a woman robbing her husband blind by falsely accusing him of neglect in a divorce case, is the worst of all. It showed promise as a courtroom drama in the beginning, but it just trails off in the end, just before the judge’s final verdict.
“Know What I Mean?”, which is about a truck-driver turned smuggler, is just plain boring. The incidents keep repeating and the guy keeps ending up in jail until, finally, the story ends. Ugh.
“The Alibi”, the story of a criminal offing his ex and her new boyfriend while in jail, would have been entertaining if the narrator (a friend of the murderer; NOT the author) wasn’t such a sexist mess of a guy.
And finally, “The Greek Tragedy”, a story about a wedding tragedy, is interesting but tragic. I didn’t like it because I don’t like “sad”.
So, five out of twelve good stories. Not very nice odds, especially in a book by Jeffrey Archer. And if this were a novel, I wouldn’t have hesitated to DNF* the book. But the thing about short stories is that they’re so short! So, you can abandon a novel, but a short story is too short to abandon without guilt. After all, there’s always somehow only a page or two left to read. And maybe the next short story is better! In this book, sometimes, the next short story was better.
To be fair to Jeffrey Archer, this book probably only disappointed me so much because I’ve read all of his other short stories and I had certain expectations from this book. If you don’t have the same expectations, you may end up liking all the stories.
Anywho, on to the good stuff.
What I liked about the book:
Well, some of the stories were interesting, at least.
That's literally all I can think of.
You should read it if:
You haven’t read any of Jeffrey Archer’s books
You like the low-commitment value of short stories
You don’t mind disappointing endings (for me, the ending almost always defines the story. If the ending isn’t good, the entire story becomes sour. But that’s just me!)
You may not like it if:
You have expectations from Jeffrey Archer as an author
Stories which trail off without a concrete ending aren’t your cup of tea
You like your reads to be exciting and thrilling and adventurous
I recommend this book to only those who haven’t read Jeffrey Archer before (I know I’ve said this twice already, but still…), and to people who don’t mind stories without excitement in them.
* For all you non-book nerds, “DNF” means “Did Not Finish”.