Heads You Win is international #1 bestseller Jeffrey Archer’s most ambitious and creative work since Kane and Abel, with a final twist that will shock even his most ardent of fans.
Leningrad, Russia, 1968: From an early age it is clear that Alexander Karpenko is destined to lead his countrymen. But when his father is assassinated by the KGB for defying the state, Alexander and his mother will have to escape Russia if they hope to survive. At the docks, they have an irreversible choice: board a container ship bound for America or one bound for Great Britain. Alexander leaves the choice to a toss of a coin…
In a single moment, a double twist decides Alexander’s future. During an epic tale, spanning two continents and thirty years, we follow Alexander through triumph and defeat as he sets out on parallel lives as Alex in New York and Sasha in London. As this unique story unfolds, both come to realize that to find their destiny they must face the past they left behind as Alexander in Russia.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
It’s no surprise that politician-turned-novelist Jeffrey Archer is a master at weaving grand themes into his best-selling books. The Kane and Abel author’s new thriller is a gripping story of loyalty, ambition and the choices that define us. Opening in late-1960s Russia, the story centres on Alexander, who was destined for greatness until the KGB assassinated his father, forcing him to flee the country. Filled with plot twists, unforeseen deceptions and fascinating politics, Heads You Win is a unique and totally gripping historical novel that raises questions about fate and destiny.
In Archer's clever novel, a Sliding Doors-ish bildungsroman, fate hinges on the toss of a coin. After his father is assassinated by the KGB in 1968, young Alexander Karpenko says goodbye to his friend Vladimir and flees Russia with his mother. At the docks, they flip a coin to see if they will emigrate to London or New York. In one version of the story, Sasha and his mother journey to London, where he grows up to attend Cambridge, stands for Labour MP, marries well, and becomes involved in political hugger-mugger. In the other version of the story, Karpenko, here referred to as Alex, and his mother move to New York, where he grows up to be a hustler/entrepreneur, marries well, is named the chairman of a bank, and becomes involved in financial- and art-world chicanery. After 30 years, both Sasha and Alex return to Russia to find that their fates are now inextricably linked with the future of their post-Communist homeland. Archer cannibalizes his greatest hits (including Kane and Abel and First Among Equals) even as he emulates the '60s bestsellers of Harold Robbins and Jacqueline Susann to tell his twinned stories of immigrant striving, romance, and dirty dealing, with a surprise last-sentence kicker that points to the present political moment. The result is a fun, fast-paced novel. 300,000-copy announced first printing.
Kane and Abel 2.0, just not quite the brilliant classic.
The ending? I’m missing so much
I was so eager to understand how these two lives would tie in. I was reading as two separate paths until the author had those paths cross. Which had me scratching my head at the ending. Feeling disappointed that wasn’t resolved. Otherwise interesting read.
Same Old, Same Old
Anyone who’s read the Clifton Chronicles will find themselves wondering if these are the exact same characters. Archer seems to only know how to write about specific types of people in markedly similar situations. The ending is rushed and doesn’t fit with the rest of the book, nor does it make much sense conceptually.