Jeffrey Archer’s ‘A Matter of Honour’ was not an extraordinary, must-read book; but neither was it particularly unlikeable. As a thriller, A Matter of Honour was slightly above average – I have read better, but I have also read much worse. As a Jeffrey Archer novel, having read Kane and Abel and Not a Penny More…before this, this one came as a slight disappointment but was still one of the better books I have read in this genre.
Here are some of the pros and cons of the novel:
- Pace – After starting off rather slow, the novel picks up pace quickly and by the time the first quarter was over, I was having a hard time putting it down at night.
- Female characters – Quiet surprisingly for a spy thriller based in the sixties with both a male protagonist and antagonist, the female side-characters in this novel were all very well written. From the plucky and innocent Heidi to the sassy musician Robin, the honest yet street-smart hooker Jeane as well as the unfortunate researcher Comrade Petrova – the only unifying characteristic of these women was that their personalities were not defined by or limited by their gender. They ranged from the good to the bad, the smart and the stupid, and all retained their individuality in the otherwise male-dominated world of international espionage in the mid-sixties.
- Scope – The novel was ambitious in scope, taking place over three continents and five or more countries. It included some fine descriptions of varied locales in Moscow, Geneva, London, Paris as well as the European countryside.
- Uninteresting Protagonist – Adam Scott starts out as a rather sympathetic hero: kind, friendly, unemployed and possessed of a rather wry sense of humour. As the novel progresses, however, he becomes less and less relatable, his Mary Sue-fication culminating at the torture scene where Adam tolerates inhuman torture at the hands of a professional torturer in the Russian Embassy on foreign soil without so much as a peep. Not once does he think of relenting, not a second of doubt crosses his mind even as he is mercilessly electrocuted. He shows neither fear nor doubt nor the slightest hesitation in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. The man who is emotional enough to steal a random car and give chase when his girlfriend is kidnapped, instead of staying put and calling the police (which would have been a more rational course of action) spares her no more than some perfunctory thought after she is dead. He is equally blasé about the fact that he is being unjustly accused of a double-murder and hunted down. Nothing seems to affect Adam Scott. Nothing deters him from his single-minded purpose of protecting the treasure of a foreign country at all costs. In the course of a week, he transforms from your everyday average unemployed Joe to master spy and manipulator who manages to outwit the most powerful agencies of three of the most powerful world powers all while showing emotions no stronger than the occasional frown.
- Length – At places the story seemed to drag on unnecessarily, describing in pages what could have been said in paragraphs.
- Loose ends – Which one of the D4 was Mentor? What finally happened with the icon. What happened when Romanov (or his body) finally arrived in Moscow? What was the reaction of the Russians and the Swiss upon the discovery of Petrova’s body in the bank vault? Several of the most interesting plot points of the story are left either unanswered or only partially answered, leaving me rather dissatisfied by the end.
Overall, I would recommend this book for a quick and thrilling read on a long plane/train journey or as a casual pastime. It has some good moments and thrilling scenes but does not match the standards of some of the better Jeffrey Archer novels.