Heads You Win

Written by Jeffrey Archer
Review by Julia C. Fischer

Having completed his Clifton Chronicles, Jeffrey Archer returns this year with a stand-alone novel, Heads You Win. Archer’s latest book explores the two destinies of Alexander Karpenko after a fateful decision.

After his father is murdered, Alexander escapes the Soviet Union in 1968 with his mother, Elena. At the dock, a coin is tossed to decide whether to hide in a ship traveling to New York City or one whose destination is London. Archer proceeds to tell the story of both these paths, switching back and forth between the two. Alex makes his mark in the business world in New York City while Sasha, in London, attends Oxford University and becomes involved in politics. Along the way, both Alex and Sasha marry artistic wives, have faithful friends and arch-nemeses, and possess the determination to make a better life in their adopted homelands. Eventually, both Alex and Sasha return to the Soviet Union and the two storylines collide.

Archer adroitly tackles the age-old question of “what if.”  In his book, the reader can see how each decision plays out and how destiny, no matter if Alexander is in London or New York City, will dictate his life and lead him back to the Soviet Union. Sometimes the two stories can get confused with one another, especially at the denouement, but Archer tries to eliminate that possibility by differentiating the characters as Alex and Sasha. The latter half of the book devolves into politics, as some of Archer’s novels tend to do. While some readers might enjoy this political focus, I enjoyed the first half much better, which focused on Alexander’s earlier life. Ultimately, this is a fun and unique read that fans of Archer will surely enjoy.