Book title: Nothing Ventured (paperback)
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Publication year: 2020
Publisher: Pan MacMillan
This global No 1 bestseller by Jeffrey Archer heralds the start of a brand new series and introduces Detective William Warwick.
It is not a detective story but a story about the makings of a detective in London, England.
William wanted to be a detective from the age of eight, when he solved “the case of the missing Mars bars”. The evidence — sweet papers — had been found in the waste-paper basket in the study of one of his closest pals, Adrian Heath.
William’s father, Sir Julian Warwick QC, wanted his son to read law at Oxford, just as he had done 30 years ago, and become a lawyer like him and William’s elder sister, Grace. But William remained determined to join the police force the day he left school.
After graduating from university, William joined the Metropolitan Police Force as Police Constable 565LD.
From his first day as a probationer, he was guided by his mentor, Constable Fred Yates, who had 28 years of police service under his belt.
The first thing Fred taught William was “ABC”. “Accept nothing. Believe no one. Challenge everything. It’s the only law I live by,” said Fred. This was a lesson that the young cop would remember for life.
Fred also introduced William to the world of burglars, drug dealers and pimps as well as his first dead body. Fred also warned him, “While you are a constable, call anyting that moves ‘sir’. That way you can’t go far wrong.”
One day, Fred was stabbed to death and William was injured in the chest while trying to arrest a thug on a street.
After that, William, who chose art at university, joined Scotland Yard’s arts and antiquities squad as a fledging detective. Investigating the theft of a priceless Rembrandt painting named “The Syndics of the Clothmakers’ Guild” from the Fitzmolean Museum in Kensington, he met Beth Rainsford, a research assistant at the gallery, and fell in love with her.
William soon learnt that Beth’s father, Arthur Rainsford, was in Pentonville prison for a murder he did not commit.
With the help of William, William’s father, his sister and Professor Leonard Abraham,
an expert on the use of Electrostatic Detection Apparatus (ESDA) in criminal cases,
the judge presiding over the re-trial of Arthur’s case later found that he had been falsely charged with the murder of his friend and business partner, Gary Kirkland. Arthur became a free man after that.
As he followed the trail of the missing Rembrandt painting, William crossed paths with suave art collector, Miles Faulkner, his beautiful wife, Christina and his brilliant lawyer, Booth Watson QC.
“The Syndics” was eventually returned to Fitzmolean Museum, seven years after it was stolen. Police believed it was the original painting signed by Rembrandt because it had his initials, RvR, at the bottom right-hand corner.
Faulkner, who was found guilty of receiving goods that he knew to be stolen, was fined ten thousand pounds by the court and sentenced to four years jail for the offence.
However, because of his generosity in donating another priceless painting, Rubens’ “Christ’s Descent from the Cross”, Faulkner’s jail sentence was suspended.
At a ceremony to celebrate the return of “The Syndics” to Fitzmolean Museum and the unveiling of Ruben’s “Christ’s Descent from the Cross”, Faulkner said to William, “Should you ever find yourself in New York, Constable Warwick, do give me call, because I’d like to invite you to my apartment on Fifth Avenue for a drink.”
“Why would I want to do that?” asked William, almost spitting out the words.
Faulkner then leaned forward and whispered in his ear. “Because then I can show you the original.”
What a surprise ending! The reader is thus left to wonder, “Is ‘The Syndics’ — now hanging in the Fitzmolean Museum — an original or not?”
“Daily Express” described “Nothing Ventured” as “a pacey tale of fakes, forgeries and ripped-off Rembrandts worthy of a TV crime capper” while “Daily Mail” had this to say, “Jeffrey is the consummate storyteller and his latest novel, ‘Nothing Ventured’, (is) fast-paced and thrilling, with his trademark plot-twists and cliff-hangers.”
“An expert juggling act that ends with not one but two intercut trials. More please,” added Kirkus Reviews.
Personally, I have tremendously enjoyed the beautiful language used in the book and was too happy to add more English words to my vocabulary.
Jeffrey Archer also reinforces to me the importance of research, especially for a literary project. Among those he thanked for their invaluable advice and research while he was writing “Nothing Ventured” were Ellen Radley (Forensic Handwriting and Document Examiner, rtd), Detective Sergeant Michelle Roycroft (rtd) and Chief Superintendent John Sutherland (rtd).