‘False Impressions’ leads a thinker’s collection


“False Impression,” by Jeffrey Archer, is set in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. Anna, the heroine, escapes by hurrying down the stairs as she and many others are urged to do. Her employer, Bruce Fenston, escapes too. When his assistant finds a spare room in an unscathed building, they can proceed with their occupation.

Their occupation is a devious one. He deals in art masterpieces, considering buying them from owners who need huge loans from his bank.

He has a hired assassin who proceeds to kill the owner so that Bruce can steal the art and even more of the estate.

Anna needs a man, who is Jack Delaney from the FBI, who knows that Bruce is a crook and thinks Anna may join in his wicked business. When he learns more about her, he realizes that she is good. The reader is happy to have Jack following her so that he will be available to save her from the eventual attack of the assassin.

Anna is a pro at art, with a magnificent memory of every museum, every catalog, every collection, which makes her an invaluable employee. Her job is to travel to inspect a masterpiece that her boss might consider collateral on a loan. While she is visiting a castle, he decides to get rid of her because she is too honest.

Archer describes the terror and misery of 9/11 vividly as well as some wild driving in Bucharest and chasing the assassin in England.

Everyone knows about Henry VIII and his wives, but in “Wolf Hall,” Hilary Mantel focuses on Thomas Cromwell, a fascinating character. Lowborn, Thomas is teased and belittled until he becomes the friend of Cardinal Wolsey, who teaches him whatever about life and government that Thomas has not taught himself.

Thomas becomes the second man in England, adviser to the King and feared and hated by noblemen. Sadly, he loses his wife and daughters to the plague, which they call “the sweat.” Thomas himself is seldom ill and always smarter than anyone else.

Mantel portrays him as kind and gentle, though his enemies do not see him this way. He takes various children into his home to join his only son, Gregory, to teach other boys his ways and always have helpers nearby. His son surprisingly is nothing like him.

Thomas never remarries, though he helps the King manage his famous marital troubles. Cromwell gets along with people through marvelous tact and intuition. He seems to be aware of others’ motives and can always dodge trouble and defuse explosive situations.

Since Cromwell is the author’s main character, “he” usually refers to him, but I sometimes had to reread to be sure, when there are other males in the paragraph. Otherwise the writing is delightful, for example: “The Duke lapses into what, in another man, you would call silent thought.” “The moon, as if disgraced, trails rags of black cloud.” “It’s freeing to stay up when you have no bed.” As Cardinal, Wolsey prays for everybody. “Only when I say to the Lord, ‘Now, about Thomas Cromwell, ‘does God say to me, ‘Wolsey, what have I told you? Don’t you know when to give up?’”

Mantel plans a trilogy about Cromwell. Good news, may all the novels be as appealing as this first one.

This month’s Young Adult novel is John Corey Whaley’s “Where Things Come Back,” whose title refers to the famous woodpecker that was considered extinct and then possibly reappeared. The author cleverly calls it “the Lazarus bird,” and tells also the story of a young boy who disappears from a small Arkansas town.

The boy’s family is devastated, and the life of his older brother is colored by everyone pitying him for his loss. The family tries everything, even a psychic. Of course a kidnapper is suggested. The novel is written so as to be vague: the reader is left not sure of the result.

The book has a strange structure: Odd-numbered chapters about Cullen Witter, the elder brother, and even-numbered chapters about Bennett, an entirely irrelevant boy. Eventually they come together with a boy who knew Bennett having kidnapped the boy who disappeared. Maybe. The author, in his first novel, seems to want to mystify his readers. But the title does give hope.