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Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less By Jeffrey Archer | Book Review

Author Jeffrey Archer doesn’t require an introduction. His fan-following (or better to say “readers following”) is across continents. The thrillers he write has caught attention as well as admiration from readers. Since a long we were planning to share our views and reviews for his books.

We came across many of his short stories and books and read them. Unfortunately, a lot of those interesting and entertaining experiences didn’t convert into book reviews, so far. But, one fine day, one of our editors thought: “enough is enough”, we should publish a book review for Mr. Archer’s book at the earliest. And, that is how our this book review is born.

Today we are going to talk about a fantastic thriller by Mr. Jeffrey Archer, Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less.

Book Cover:

Being a gateway to the virtual world explored within, the book cover is responsible for making its first impression. And, we know the impact of the first impression. It thus, more often than not, is responsible for a remarkable number of book exploring decisions for various casual browsers. Of course, then the book blurb etc. have their impact on the browser, and eventually the action of book-picking can be converted into book purchase and/or book reading experience.

Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less By Jeffrey Archer | Book Cover

Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less By Jeffrey Archer | Book Cover

Due to the popularity of the book, it has been reprinted many times. All the versions have different cover pages, based on the technology available and popularity norms of those times. Some have retro looks. The latest and most eye catching cover page belongs to the audio book. Rest of them are moderately good and detailed, but not as much of an eye-catcher for today’s readers.

The Plot:

Let us take a bird’s eye view of the book plot.

Harvey David Metcalfe is a wealthy fellow from USA. That is not the most interesting part of his existence, though. The way he made the money, is.

Born into a humble family, he learnt the art of making money. Initially, he was earning money by doing various job. He was a brilliant fellow with great learning skills. His inner-fire to learn things made him understand accounting and how stock markets function.

One day, he tried something unusual for one of the checks he has received, and he earned money. No, he didn’t still it from someone. He executed a sequence of event that lead him to earn money, easily. And, he found a way, a way to get rich – quickly.

He eventually became what he is, today. Today, he can afford vacation homes in Europe. Today, he can visit Wimbledon to attend and ejoy tennis tournaments. Today, he can have stallion farm and he put in his horses in competitions. Today, he can get the best possible resources he need or even want.

His way of earning is a mystery for many but known by a few. The way he executed things, is interesting.

He envisioned an opportunity to earn a lot from the “petroleum” boom. It was the time when petroleum sites started being found in Gulf countries. He created a company, got it registered in UK and started an hunting for such sites via his company. And, his company found a site. Gradually, the leaks about his company finding a petroleum source attracted more investors, with the help of hired staff in London. The prices of his company’s shares started getting higher and higher. And, one day, one of the employee of this company found himself in a soup. It was an unimaginable mess. He then, has to disappear from London.

What was the actual mess? And, how the things unfold from here?

Well, you need to read the book to get your answers.

Over the course of the story, you meet with: Harvey Metcalfe (Harvey David Metcalfe), Jörg Birrer, Henryk Metelski, Jan Pelnik, Witold Gronowich, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Rose Rennick, Roger Sharpley, John Bodie, Arlene Hunter, Rosalie, David Kesler, Stephen Bradley, Dr. Adrian Tryner, Detective Inspector Clifford Smith, Detective Sergeant Ryder, Richard Elliott, Bernie Silverstein, Alvin Cooper, Adrian Tryner, Jean Pierre Lamanns, Viscount Brigsley, Hank Swaltz, Terry Robards, Harry Woodley, Mary, Anne Summerton, Miss Elspeth Meikle, Anthony Bamber, Patrick Lichfield, Michael Stacpoole, Mr. Caston, Selina Wallop, and others.

Views And Reviews:

The attribute of this thriller I like the most, is, it shows the back-drop of the major incidents and character transformation. It is not trying to paint someone pure black or white. Of course, there are clearly distinguished protagonists and antagonists. However, multiple shades are found in all the characters. The team that plans the main chain of incidents for getting back “Not A Penny More Not A Penny Less” walks on a tightrope and does grey activities!

According to me, these shades make the characters look more real and more believable. And, if you think, such things don’t happen in real life! You need to remember “Truth is stranger than the fiction”!

If someone can imagine it, then someone can execute it too!

To avoid spoilers, we’ve touched just a part of the main story and skipped all the major key incidents, intentionally. To show you various attributes of the book, we are going to quote some segments from the book. Despite our best possible care, some of the spoilers may be inevitable. So, please read with that consent.

The book starts with a conversation about a company, money and shares. Eventually, it leads to the following lines. You can clearly see an interesting description of a character and an universal truth about money, altogether.

Making a million legally has always been difficult. Making a million illegally has always been a little easier. Keeping a million when you have made it is perhaps the most difficult of all. Henryk Metelski was one of those rare men who managed all three. Even if the million he had made legally came after the million he had made illegally, what put him a yard ahead of the others was that he managed to keep it all.

You can also find some interesting line that put the things in the context, quite effectively.

…the pursuit of money and power came to him as naturally as does the pursuit of a mouse to a cat.

The state of mind is very tough to elaborate through words. Here is an interesting line in the same context, by the author:

An hour passed, but he did not notice it. Disaster had stepped in and made everything timeless.

The author is good at exploring places from a totally different perspective. It is really difficult to master this art. Here are some interesting descriptions about the life in England from the eyes of a person from US.

He washed, shaved, dressed and missed college breakfast, pedalling to Oxford station on his ancient bicycle, the preferred mode of transportation in a city blocked solid with juggernaut lorries in one-way systems. He left Ethelred the Unsteady padlocked to the station railings. There were as many bicycles standing in the ranks as there are cars in any other station in England.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
David Kesler had never been to England: how green the grass was, how narrow the roads, how closed in by hedges and fences the houses. He felt he was in Toy Town after the vast highways and large automobiles of New York. The small flat in the Barbican was clean and impersonal, but, as Mr. Cooper had said, convenient for his office a few hundred yards away in Threadneedle Street.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
At Paddington he pushed through the ants rushing around the forecourt. He was glad he had chosen the closeted life of Oxford, or more accurately that it had chosen him. He had never come to terms with London, which he found large and impersonal, and he always took a taxi everywhere for fear of getting lost on the buses or underground. Why ever didn’t they number their streets so Americans would know where they were?

Stephen was impressed by London cabs: they never had a scrape or mark on them: cab-drivers are not allowed to pick up fares unless their vehicles are in perfect condition. How different from New York’s battered yellow monsters, he thought.

The cultural comparison and different ways of livings amongst people from the different parts of the world, and their ways of living, are mentioned at various places in the book. For example:

Harvey had finally given up trying to understand the British way of business during the 1967 devaluation of the pound. It had been taken advantage of by every jumped-up speculator on the face of the globe. Harvey knew on the Tuesday morning that Harold Wilson was going to devalue any time after Friday, five o’clock Greenwich Mean Time. On the Thursday even the junior clerk at The Lincoln Trust knew. It was no wonder that the Bank of England lost an estimated $1.5 billion in four days. Harvey had often thought that if only the British could liven up their Board rooms and get their tax structure right, they could be the richest nation in the world instead of a nation which, as The Economist stated, could be bought by the Arabs with sixty days of oil revenue. While the British flirted with socialism and still retained a folie de grandeur, they seemed doomed to sink into insignificance.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Monte Carlo does not allow hard liquor to be sold at the tables or girls to serve the customers. The Casino’s business is gambling, not booze or women, in direct contrast to Las Vegas.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
“I’m always slightly humiliated by how well the French speak our language compared with our grasp of theirs,” said Stephen.

“It’s all the fault of you bloody Americans,” said Adrian.

“No, it isn’t. If France had conquered America your French would be excellent. Blame it on the Pilgrim Fathers.”

As you can, sometimes, dark humour also comes out during the conversation :).

Here is the most important segment from the book, as it’s title comes from there:

“We have had our money stolen by a very clever man who is an expert in share fraud. We are not knowledgeable about stocks and shares, but we are all experts in our own fields. Gentlemen, I therefore suggest we steal it back.

Culture from a country talks a lot about the people living there. The way they behave in special situations, for important people, and who them consider important, is at its core. Doctors are treated with respect, almost everywhere in the word. Here is a small segment talking about the same, from a different perspective.

Adrian retrieved his car from the High Street, thanking its “Doctor on Call” sticker not for the first time in his life for the extra degree of freedom it gave him in parking.

The book has some lines that either adds satirical punch or generates a situational humor in quite a casual manner. I love reading such lines. Here are some of them from this book:

“You still awake, Mary?”
“Well, I’m not talking in my sleep, love.”

The quest for an unoccupied compartment ended in failure. James concluded that Richard Marsh, the chairman of British Rail, was trying to run the railways at a profit.

The next best thing to an empty compartment, James always considered, was one containing a beautiful girl

It’s bad enough knowing he’s stolen our money, but it’s humiliating having to watch him spend it.

The author is good at playing with words, as mentioned earlier. Here are some lines I can’t stop myself from referring to:

I hardly know what to say. It’s quite incredible. It’s so unbelievable that I believe every word.

The clientele were of all nationalities—Arabs and Jews played next to each other at the roulette wheel and it looked more like a gathering of the United Nations than a casino.

It is not tough to remain unbiased and see the things. There are people who talk about ideology and philosophy, and thus consider money as a dirty thing or even hates it. The author, however, shares an important aspect of wealth.

One of the advantages of real wealth is that menial tasks can always be left to someone else.

And, achieve great feats and do remarkable things, the work must have to be distributed. This is the best way to complete a task with the best possible quality in shortest possible time (based on your resources).

While talking about various places the author often quotes various historical incidents and other details worth knowing about the same; in a really interesting way. Here is an example:

The suite itself consists of four rooms: a small dressing room, a bedroom, a bathroom, and a drawing room, which is elegantly laid out and overlooks Brook Street. The furniture and pictures make it possible for you to believe that you are still in Victorian England. Only the telephone and television dispel the illusion.

The room is large enough to be used for cocktail parties or for visiting heads of state to entertain visitors. Henry Kissinger had received Harold Wilson there only the week before.

And, interesting references does include things like:

Harvey arrived at the members’ car park just after midday, his white Rolls Royce shining like a Tide advertisement.

Sometimes, you will simply enjoy the things like the following, for its context (and remembr the timeframe of the ficitonal incidents of the story):

I will suggest my daughter marries Prince Charles—they’re about the same age.”

“I don’t think even you will be able to fix that, Harvey.”

Of course, it also talks about how powerful a character is, by showing its limitation. Isn’t it interesting?

The author doesn’t miss talking about day-to-day stuff, that is often not considered, till it is to be done (like household stuff), by you. Of course, by making it interesting, rather than look like preaching.

He made his face up carefully to age himself by fifteen years. It took him a long time, and he wondered whether women had to struggle as long in front of the mirror to achieve the reverse effect.

If I am asked to quote only a single segment of content from the book, possibly I would settle for the following:

“We were lucky to pull it off,” said Adrian.

“We weren’t lucky,” said Stephen. “We kept our cool under pressure.” …

So, as you can see, it is an interesting story, weaved nicely through interesting incidents, situations and emotions in in 21 chapters. The multi-cultural exploration is something that makes this book more interesting. And, it shows the author’s’s open-mindedness, experiences and research work involved. And yes, you also find some interesting words like:

superciliousness, brilliantine, algebraists

The only thing I found missing is the reference of the employee who disappeared, in the final chapter. It would have made it conclusive.


I thoroughly enjoyed reading this nicely written thriller. The way the characters are depicted and their layers are unfolded, scenes are written and situations are executed, the emotions elaborated and realistic situations are elaborated without prejudiced are the key elements for me.

ThinkerViews Rating:

Around 7.5 to 8stars out of 10.

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Over To You:

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