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Posts Tagged ‘Not a Penny More Not a Penny Less’

Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer

Posted by RB Kollannur on March 30, 2014


Note: This review is part of a weekly book review column that I write for City Journal, an English newspaper based in Thrissur, Kerala.

Published on 04/02/2013

Publisher – Random House; Year of Publication – 1976; Pages – 255

Keralites have a long history of being outdone by con men, be it in money chains or teak scams. More recently, we have seen a rise of con men in the news. But on screen and among books, con men are often romanticized as heroes as can be seen by the success of the Oceans’ movie franchise and the never ending Robin Hood saga of stories. “Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less” is a story about con men, but instead of conning the aam admi, they are out to con another con man.

A dentist, a curator, a professor and a poverty ridden minor lord are conned by a master con in a stock scam. The master con takes advantage of legal loopholes to relieve our unfortunate protagonists of a million dollars. But instead of sulking over their lost fortune, they decide to con it back from the source. Each of them has to come up with a scam to swindle the villain. What follows is an amusing adventure by four normal everyday guys as they bungle their way through cons with alarming luck and earn themselves most of their money, almost down to the last penny that they lost. As the novel progresses the reader is kept on tenterhooks as it is never certain what the plan is or whether it will be a success.

The novel is an entertaining read with witty and humorous sequences, especially when our four intrepid schemers are out on a scheme. One cannot help sympathize with their plight as they keep a stern moral (for most part) while they steal. Most of their schemes are planned methodically but, as has been known in cases of careful planning, all plans run amok when put to the test.

Over the years, Jeffrey Archer has amassed the reputation of being a prolific writer having written over three dozen books. But in 1976, when Archer wrote his first novel “Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less”, he was an out of work politician fighting bankruptcy after falling victim to a fraud. But instead of following the course of the protagonists of the novel, he wrote his way back into green. However, given his situation it is impossible to not draw parallels between his novel and his life.

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