Danny Cartwright and Spencer Craig never should have met. One evening, Danny, an East End cockney who works as a garage mechanic, takes his fianceé up to the West End to celebrate their engagement. He crosses the path of Spencer Craig, a West End barrister posed to be the youngest Queen's Counsel of his generation.
A few hours later Danny is arrested for murder and later is sentenced to twenty-two years in prison, thanks to irrefutable testimony from Spencer, the prosecution's main witness.
Danny spends the next few years in a high-security prison while Spencer Craig's career as a lawyer goes straight up. All the while Danny plans to escape and wreak his revenge.
Thus begins Jeffrey Archer's poignant novel of deception, hatred and vengeance, in which only one of them can finally triumph while the other will spend the rest of his days in jail. But which one will triumph? This suspenseful novel takes the listener through so many twists and turns that no one will guess the ending, even the most ardent of Archer's many, many fans.
|Product dimensions:||5.38(w) x 5.60(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Jeffrey Archer was educated at Oxford University. He has served five years in Britain's House of Commons, fourteen years in the House of Lords and two in Her majesty's prisons, which spawned three volumes of highly acclaimed Prison Diaries. All of his novels and short story collectionsincluding Kane and Abel, Sons of Fortune, and False Impressionhave been international bestsellers. Archer is married with two children and lives in London and Cambridge.
Roger Allam has narrated audiobooks for numerous bestselling authors, including Jeffrey Archer, Ian McEwan, Ian Rankin, and Joseph Conrad. In reviewing Allam's narration of Jeffrey Archer's Paths of Glory, Publishers Weekly said, "Veteran actor Roger Allam brings an impressive range and energy to Archer's historical novel…. Allam's remarkable accents are the highlight of the audio book."
Hometown:London and the Old Vicarage, Grantchester
Date of Birth:April 15, 1940
Education:Attended Brasenose College, Oxford, 1963-66. Received a diploma in sports education from Oxford Institute
Read an Excerpt
A Prisoner of Birth
By Jeffrey Archer
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2008 Jeffrey Archer
All rights reserved.
Danny Cartwright could feel his legs trembling as they sometimes did before the first round of a boxing match he knew he was going to lose. The associate recorded the plea on the indictment and, looking up at Danny, said, "You can sit down."
Danny collapsed onto the little chair in the center of the dock, relieved that the first round was over. He looked up at the referee, who was seated on the far side of the courtroom in a high-backed green leather chair that had the appearance of a throne. In front of him was a long oak bench littered with case papers in ring binders, and a notebook opened at a blank page. Mr. Justice Sackville looked across at Danny, his expression revealing neither approval nor disapproval. He removed a pair of half-moon spectacles from the end of his nose and said in an authoritative voice, "Bring in the jury."
While they all waited for the twelve men and women to appear, Danny tried to take in the unfamiliar sights and sounds of court number four at the Old Bailey. He looked across at the two men who were seated at either end of what he'd been told was counsel's bench. His young advocate, Alex Redmayne, looked up and gave him a friendly smile, but the older man at the other end of the bench, whom Mr. Redmayne always referred to as prosecution counsel, never once glanced in his direction.
Danny transferred his gaze up into the public gallery. His parents were seated in the front row. His father's burly tattooed arms were resting on the balcony railing, while his mother's head remained bowed. She raised her eyes occasionally to glance down at her only son.
It had taken several months for the case of The Crown versus Daniel Arthur Cartwright finally to reach the Old Bailey. It seemed to Danny that once the law became involved, everything happened in slow motion. And then suddenly, without warning, the door in the far corner of the courtroom opened and the usher reappeared. He was followed by seven men and five women who had been selected to decide his fate. They filed into the jury box and sat in their unallocated places—six in the front row, six behind them; strangers with nothing more in common than the lottery of selection.
Once they had settled, the associate rose from his place to address them. "Members of the jury," he began. "The defendant, Daniel Arthur Cartwright, stands before you charged on one count of murder. To that count he has pleaded not guilty. Your charge therefore is to listen to the evidence and decide whether he be guilty or no."CHAPTER 2
Mr. Justice Sackville glanced down at the bench below him. "Mr. Pearson, you may open the case for the Crown."
A short, rotund man rose slowly from the counsel's bench. Mr. Arnold Pearson QC opened the thick file that rested on a lectern in front of him. He touched his well-worn wig, almost as if he were checking to make sure he'd remembered to put it on, then tugged on the lapels of his gown; a routine that hadn't changed for the past thirty years.
"If it please your lordship," he began in a slow, ponderous manner, "I appear for the Crown in this case, while my learned friend"—he glanced to check the name on the sheet of paper in front of him—"Mr. Alex Redmayne, appears for the defense. The case before your lordship is one of murder. The cold-blooded and calculated murder of Mr. Bernard Henry Wilson."
In the public gallery, the parents of the victim sat in the far corner of the back row. Mr. Wilson looked down at Danny, unable to mask the disappointment in his eyes. Mrs. Wilson stared blankly in front of her, white-faced, not unlike a mourner attending a funeral. Although the tragic events surrounding the death of Bernie Wilson had irrevocably changed the lives of two East End families who had been close friends for several generations, it had hardly caused a ripple beyond a dozen streets surrounding Bacon Road in Bow.
"During the course of this trial, you will learn how the defendant," continued Pearson, waving a hand in the direction of the dock without bothering even to glance at Danny, "lured Mr. Wilson to a public house in Chelsea on the night of Saturday, September eighteenth, 1999, where he carried out this brutal and premeditated murder. He had earlier taken Mr. Wilson's sister"—once again he checked the file in front of him—"Elizabeth, to Lucio's restaurant in Fulham Road. The court will learn that Cartwright made a proposal of marriage to Miss Wilson after she had revealed that she was pregnant. He then called her brother, Mr. Bernard Wilson, on his mobile phone and invited him to join them at the Dunlop Arms, a public house at the back of Hambledon Terrace, Chelsea, so that they could all celebrate.
"Miss Wilson has already made a written statement that she had never visited this public house before, although Cartwright clearly knew it well, which the Crown will suggest was because he had selected it for one purpose and one purpose only: its back door opens on to a quiet alleyway, an ideal location for someone with murderous intent; a murder that Cartwright would later blame on a complete stranger who just happened to be a customer at the Dunlop Arms that night."
Danny stared down at Mr. Pearson. How could he possibly know what had happened that night when he wasn't even there? But Danny wasn't too worried. After all, Mr. Redmayne had assured him that his side of the story would be presented during the trial and he mustn't be too anxious if everything appeared bleak while the Crown was presenting its case. Despite his barrister's repeated assurances, two things did worry Danny: Alex Redmayne wasn't much older than he was, and had also warned him that this was only his second case as leader.
"But unfortunately for Cartwright," continued Pearson, "the other four customers who were in the Dunlop Arms that night tell a different story, a story which has not only proved consistent, but which has also been corroborated by the barman on duty at the time. The Crown will present all five as witnesses, and they will tell you that they overheard a dispute between the two men, who were later seen to leave by the rear entrance of the bar after Cartwright had said, 'Then why don't we go outside and sort it out?' All five of them saw Cartwright leave by the back door, followed by Bernard Wilson and his sister Elizabeth, who was clearly in an agitated state. Moments later, a scream was heard. Mr. Spencer Craig, one of the customers, left his companions and ran out into the alley, where he found Cartwright holding Mr. Wilson by the throat, while repeatedly thrusting a knife into his chest.
"Mr. Craig immediately dialed 999 on his mobile phone. The time of that call, m'lord, and the conversation that took place were logged and recorded at Belgravia police station. A few minutes later, two police officers arrived on the scene and found Cartwright kneeling over Mr. Wilson's body, with the knife in his hand—a knife that he must have picked up from the bar, because Dunlop Arms is engraved on the handle."
Alex Redmayne wrote down Pearson's words.
"Members of the jury," continued Pearson, once again tugging at his lapels, "every murderer has to have a motive, and in this case we need look no further than the first recorded slaying, of Abel by Cain, to establish that motive: envy, greed and ambition were the sordid ingredients that, when combined, provoked Cartwright to remove the one rival who stood in his path.
"Members of the jury, both Cartwright and Mr. Wilson worked at Wilson's garage in Mile End Road. The garage is owned and managed by Mr. George Wilson, the deceased's father, who had planned to retire at the end of the year, when he intended to hand over the business to his only son, Bernard. Mr. George Wilson has made a written statement to this effect, which has been agreed by the defense, so we shall not be calling him as a witness.
"Members of the jury, you will discover during this trial that the two young men had a long history of rivalry and antagonism which stretched back to their schooldays. But with Bernard Wilson out of the way, Cartwright planned to marry the boss's daughter and take over the thriving business himself.
"However, everything did not go as Cartwright planned, and when he was arrested, he tried to place the blame on an innocent bystander, the same man who had run out into the alley to see what had caused Miss Wilson to scream. But unfortunately for Cartwright, it was not part of his plan that there would be four other people who were present throughout the entire episode." Pearson smiled at the jury. "Members of the jury, once you have heard their testimony, you will be left in no doubt that Daniel Cartwright is guilty of the heinous crime of murder." He turned to the judge. "That concludes the prosecution opening for the Crown, m'lord." He tugged his lapels once more before adding, "With your permission I shall call my first witness." Mr. Justice Sackville nodded, and Pearson said in a firm voice, "I call Mr. Spencer Craig."
Danny Cartwright looked to his right and watched as an usher at the back of the courtroom opened a door, stepped out into the corridor and bellowed, "Mr. Spencer Craig!" A moment later, a tall man, not much older than Danny, dressed in a blue pinstriped suit, white shirt and mauve tie, entered the courtroom. How different he looked from when they'd first met.
Danny hadn't seen Spencer Craig during the past six months, but not a day had passed when he hadn't visualized him clearly. He stared at the man defiantly, but Craig didn't even glance in Danny's direction—it was as if he didn't exist.
Craig walked across the courtroom like a man who knew exactly where he was going. When he stepped into the witness box, he immediately picked up the Bible and delivered the oath without once looking at the card the usher held up in front of him. Mr. Pearson smiled at his principal witness, before glancing down at the questions he had spent the past month preparing.
"Is your name Spencer Craig?"
"Yes, sir," he replied.
"And do you reside at forty-three Hambledon Terrace, London SW3?"
"I do, sir."
"And what is your profession?" asked Mr. Pearson, as if he didn't know.
"I am a barrister at law."
"And your chosen field?"
"So you are well acquainted with the crime of murder?"
"Unfortunately I am, sir."
"I should now like to take you back to the evening of September eighteenth, last year, when you and a group of friends were enjoying a drink at the Dunlop Arms in Hambledon Terrace. Perhaps you could take us through exactly what happened that night."
"My friends and I were celebrating Gerald's thirtieth birthday—"
"Gerald?" interrupted Pearson.
"Gerald Payne," said Craig. "He's an old friend from my days at Cambridge. We were spending a convivial evening together, enjoying a bottle of wine."
Alex Redmayne made a note—he needed to know how many bottles.
Danny wanted to ask what the word "convivial" meant.
"But sadly it didn't end up being a convivial evening," prompted Pearson.
"Far from it," replied Craig, still not even glancing in Danny's direction.
"Please tell the court what happened next," said Pearson, looking down at his notes.
Craig turned to face the jury for the first time. "We were, as I said, enjoying a glass of wine in celebration of Gerald's birthday, when I became aware of raised voices. I turned and saw a man, who was seated at a table in the far corner of the room with a young lady."
"Do you see that man in the courtroom now?" asked Pearson.
"Yes," replied Craig, pointing in the direction of the dock.
"What happened next?"
"He immediately jumped up," continued Craig, "and began shouting and jabbing his finger at another man, who remained seated. I heard one of them say: 'If you think I'm gonna call you guv when you take over from my old man, you can forget it.' The young lady was trying to calm him down. I was about to turn back to my friends—after all, the quarrel was nothing to do with me—when the defendant shouted, 'Then why don't we go outside and sort it out?' I assumed they were joking, but then the man who had spoken the words grabbed a knife from the end of the bar—"
"Let me stop you there, Mr. Craig. You saw the defendant pick up a knife from the bar?" asked Pearson.
"Yes, I did."
"And then what happened?"
"He marched off in the direction of the back door, which surprised me."
"Why did it surprise you?"
"Because the Dunlop Arms is my local, and I had never seen the man before."
"I'm not sure I'm following you, Mr. Craig," said Pearson, who was following his every word.
"The rear exit is out of sight if you're sitting in that corner of the room, but he seemed to know exactly where he was going."
"Ah, I understand," said Pearson. "Please continue."
"A moment later the other man got up and chased after the defendant, with the young lady following close behind. I wouldn't have given the matter another thought, but moments later we all heard a scream."
"A scream?" repeated Pearson. "What kind of scream?"
"A high-pitched, woman's scream," replied Craig.
"And what did you do?"
"I immediately left my friends and ran into the alley in case the woman was in any danger."
"And was she?"
"No, sir. She was screaming at the defendant, begging him to stop."
"Stop what?" asked Pearson.
"Attacking the other man."
"They were fighting?"
"Yes, sir. The man I'd earlier seen jabbing a finger and shouting now had the other chap pinned up against the wall, with his forearm pressed against his throat." Craig turned to the jury and raised his left arm to demonstrate the position.
"And was Mr. Wilson trying to defend himself?" asked Pearson.
"As best he could, but the defendant was thrusting a knife into the man's chest, again and again."
"What did you do next?" asked Pearson quietly.
"I phoned the emergency services, and they assured me that they would send police and an ambulance immediately."
"Did they say anything else?" asked Pearson, looking down at his notes.
"Yes," replied Craig. "They told me under no circumstances to approach the man with the knife, but to return to the bar and wait until the police arrived." He paused. "I carried out those instructions to the letter."
"How did your friends react when you went back into the bar and told them what you had seen?"
"They wanted to go outside and see if they could help, but I told them what the police had advised and that I also thought it might be wise in the circumstances for them to go home."
"In the circumstances?"
"I was the only person who had witnessed the whole incident and I didn't want them to be in any danger should the man with the knife return to the bar."
"Very commendable," said Pearson.
The judge frowned at the prosecuting counsel. Alex Redmayne continued to take notes.
"How long did you have to wait before the police arrived?"
"It was only a matter of moments before I heard a siren, and a few minutes later a plain-clothes detective entered the bar through the back door. He produced his badge and introduced himself as Detective Sergeant Fuller. He informed me that the victim was on his way to the nearest hospital."
"What happened next?"
"I made a full statement, and then DS Fuller told me I could go home."
"And did you?"
"Yes, I returned to my house, which is only about a hundred yards from the Dunlop Arms, and went to bed, but I couldn't sleep."
Alex Redmayne wrote down the words: about a hundred yards.
"Understandably," said Pearson.
The judge frowned a second time.
"So I got up, went to my study and wrote down everything that had taken place earlier that evening."
"Why did you do that, Mr. Craig, when you had already given a statement to the police?"
"My experience of standing where you are, Mr. Pearson, has made me aware that evidence presented in the witness box is often patchy, even inaccurate, by the time a trial takes place several months after a crime has been committed."
"Quite so," said Pearson, turning another page of his file. "When did you learn that Daniel Cartwright had been charged with the murder of Bernard Wilson?"
"I read the details in the Evening Standard the following Monday. It reported that Mr. Wilson had died on his way to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, and that Cartwright had been charged with his murder."
"And did you regard that as the end of the matter, as far as your personal involvement was concerned?"
"Yes, although I knew that I would be called as a witness in any forthcoming trial, should Cartwright decide to plead not guilty."
Excerpted from A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer. Copyright © 2008 Jeffrey Archer. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
BOOK ONE: THE TRIAL,
BOOK TWO: PRISON,
BOOK THREE: FREEDOM,
BOOK FOUR: REVENGE,
BOOK FIVE: REDEMPTION,
BOOK SIX: JUDGMENT,
ALSO BY THE AUTHOR,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Danny Cartwright proposes to his beloved Beth Wilson who accepts. The pair and her brother Bernie, who is also his best friend, celebrate. Four drunks (Spencer Craig, Lawrence Davenport, Gerald Payne, and Toby Mortimer), who call themselves the Musketeers insult the trio. A fight occurs and one of the quartet stabs Bernie killing him. The four Musketeers swear they witnessed Danny kill the man though he claims otherwise. Since they are elite Cambridge University graduates and successful professionals who speak and dress like aristocratic gentlemen while he is an illiterate slum scum, he is charged with the homicide as ¿clothing¿ makes the man. His attorney the best one he can obtain with little money is slaughtered by the prosecutor. Danny is convicted to serve twenty-two years at maximum-security Belmarsh Prison. --- In prison Danny shares a cell with Nicholas Moncrieff, who teaches him to read Dumas. When someone kills Moncrieff, Danny pretends to be Nicholas and escapes his incarceration. His goals are to destroy the Musketeers and prove his innocence. --- The fun in this crime thriller is finding the numerous references to The Count of Monte Cristo as Jeffrey Archer pays homage to Alexander Dumas. The story line is fast-paced from the moment of the first confrontation and never slows down as Danny works his revenge. Although the key players including the hero are never fully developed beyond their link to the original novel, readers will enjoy this entertaining modernization of the Dumas classic. --- Harriet Klausner
This is the first book I ever read by Jeffrey Archer and it was great. A real page turner and hard to put down. I would highly recommend reading this. I plan on reading all his books.
Jeffrey Archer's latest novel is essentially a modern remake of Alexandre Dumas' The Count Of Monte Cristo. While the latter's tale was set in 18th-century France at the time when a certain Napoleon Bonaparte was in exile, Prisoner Of Birth takes place in modernday London. Apart from the difference of some 200 years, the plots of the two novels barely differ. In this book, a young man by the name of Danny Cartwright, who was about to marry his childhood sweetheart, suddenly finds himself accused of a crime he did not commit. He is then put behind bars where he receives some education from a cellmate. Danny finds a way to escape. He then amasses a huge fortune, and a title to boot, and plots revenge against those who brought about his earlier downfall. The fast-moving plot and simple language make the novel a definite pageturner. But despite Archer's attempts to adapt his story to modern times, some parts of the plot might seem rather far-etched and unbelievable, especially the prison escape. Archer manages to inject some originality only towards the later part of the story, choosing to digress from Dumas' tragic end for the Count of Monte Cristo. Those who have not read the original classic may appreciate this. But fans of the original may find that this copycat modern version is just not up to par.
Despite of the fact that you have the idea that how it is going to end, this is a real page turner....I just could not put it down.....i loved it, and one of those books which i never wanted to end...
Not Since Cane and Able have I read such a style. If you enjoyed Cane and Able you must read A Prisoner of Birth. With the story line much similar to that of The Count of Monte Cristo with the switching of identity and such, you find yourself looking forward to Danny's just revenge. This is a fast page turner.
This was a great book. Flowed really well
Typical of Jeffrey Archer, keeps you trying to out guess him. Nice twists and turns in the plot.
We've been awaiting Archer's true return for a long, long time! Grisham creates characters which lock you in within the first 10 pages, but Archer did it way before Grisham. Great characterization and a good storyline are the makings of a truly good read. You won't be able to put this work down. Read and enjoy and then pass it along to a friend.
Another gripping tale! Read it!
I have yet to be disappointed in one of Archer's books!
Great book my bf picked for me so i could use my new gift.. this nook it was a great choice... love the story it kept me on mu feet a bit unrealistic but its a book!!
Very enjoyable read.
¿Revenge is a dish best served cold.¿ Dumas¿ Dantes did; and Archer¿s Danny does.
Description: If Danny Cartwright had proposed to Beth Wilson on any other day, he would not have been arrested and charged with the murder of his best friend. But when the prosecution witnesses happen to be a group of four upper-crust college friends--a barrister, a popular actor, an aristocrat, and the youngest partner in an established firm's history--who is going to believe Danny's side of the story?Danny is sentenced to twenty-two years and sent to Belmarsh prison, the highest-security jail in the land, from where no inmate has ever escaped. But Spencer Craig, Lawrence Davenport, Gerald Payne, and Toby Mortimer all underestimate Danny's determination to seek revenge--and the extent to which his fiancée Beth will go in pursuit of justice.
Great story telling. I listened to this and was captivated from the beginning. Archer makes great use of foreshadowing and although you may get a glimmer of how it will end, the ride is fun and diverting. Top notch audio entertainment.
Quite enjoyable. A fun way to spend time. Enjoyed it very much. Andrew Webber should write an opera about this book!
Jeffrey Archer back to his best writing.A master story teller, he does have trouble setting the stage for this yarn, but once he has his main character safely locked up in gaol the story really gets underway.I notice that Archer's descriptions of in-gaol life are very detailed and personal!Great read.
Incredibly brilliant! Archer certainly does not disappoint - plot twists abound, but with a purpose. Keeps you on the edge of your seat while reading, and provokes thought when you aren't. I highly recommend it!
A predictable and pacy holiday read. I read it in two days. I won't give a synopsis of the story as many others have already done so.It was entertaining, but not thought provoking. Throughout my rather fast reading of this book, I had an image of Archer plotting out all the inter-connections and the twists and turns on a single sheet of paper. A times it felt a little clunky, as though he thought to himself, "I must just add this bit here, so book 4 or book 5 later on makes sense". It also felt as though it had been writen with the idea that it might be made into a film at a later date.This is not a book I'd recommend to someone who is an avid reader; rather I'd recommend it to someone who only reads whilst on holiday and is looking for summer escapism. Not my favourite book by a long stretch.
An unbelievable premise - as if people wouldn't recognise him! But if you accepted that initial premise, it was a great page turner and enjoyable.
A remake of Count of Monte Cristo set in reasonably modern times. Again predictable but must admit that it one of the better written Archer works.
Prisoner Of Birth by Jeffrey ArcherSally ApollonOverall score: 5.5 out of 10Archer¿s most successful accomplishment with this book is the movement of plot. I became more and more involved in what was going to happen to Danny Cartwright, to Beth, to Lawrence Davenport and the rest of his cronies. I did not think that the character development was very thorough, but there were a lot of people to keep track of, so I¿m sure it¿s harder to develop more characters. I was especially disappointed by Beth¿s character, she was overly bright and seemed to suffer no weak moments. She seemed the most two-dimensional; sad really, because I thought she would have had a lot of potential for frailty (brother dead, fiancé in prison, raising a daughter alone, unsupportive father etc.). One thing I found mystifying was that I couldn¿t really tell what distinguished Danny to her, at the beginning he seemed singularly unremarkable.I actually really did like the character sketches of The Scottish cellmate¿who became flatmate and complicit to his identity fraud. I also loved the character of the Scottish lawyer, he was fab.I do also have to say a word about Lawrence Davenport, like most twists in the plot, I did see the end coming. I think Archer tried to portray him as seedy, but didn¿t go nearly far enough as far as I¿m concerned, I think he stopped short of getting gritty¿and realistic.It was, however, most intriguing to see how the identity-switch happened and to go through the anxiety with Danny of whether he would get away with it. The trips to Scotland were highlights for me and the release day from prison. I was naturally sympathetic and rooting for Danny because he¿s wrongfully imprisoned and seems deserving of his new role in life, because he¿s smart and initially has integrity. Which brings me to my next point. How unlifelike the whole book was. The scale of the fiction was so inflated that I felt like I was reading it with a sense of suspended reality. This is fine when you¿re reading Harry Potter, which is NOT grounded in reality, but P of B was supposedly grounded as a lifelike tale, so I did have to keep pushing away the niggling ¿How absurd¿ ¿How unlikely!¿ thoughts. I was left with this sense about the whole book, which had all the loose ends too neatly tied up. Revenge also leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Did I like it? Not a question I care to answer, but if I were to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being ¿abysmal¿ 5 being ¿average¿ and 10 being ¿outstanding¿, I think I¿d have to give it a solid 5.5.
We've seen this one before from Mr. Archer. It's entertaining but it's his regular formula.