THE BLOG
05/21/2008 07:43 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Audio Book Review: Prisoner of Birth

AUTHOR: Jeffrey Archer (Kane & Abel, A Matter of Honor, Honor Amongst Thieves, The Prodigal Daughter)
GENRE: Contemporary Suspense
LENGTH: 16.5 hours
PUBLISHER: MacMillan Audio
NARRATOR: Roger Allam (Royal Shakespeare & Olivier Award winning actor)

LOG LINE
Unjustly imprisoned working-class guy transforms himself into a titled gentleman as he escapes from an English jail to seek revenge on those who framed him.

COMMENT
If this sounds like the plot to Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo, it is -- and it's meant to be. Jeffrey Archer acknowledges it but upgrades it to a gripping contemporary tale set in London and Scotland. Some of it is based on the author's own actual imprisonment. He adds his own clever plot twists and characters giving this tale a modern suspenseful treatment.

Revenge is a fundamental plot device used from Shakespeare to The Godfather to Kill Bill, Vol. 1 The 1844 Count of Monte Cristo is a prime template for all revenge stories and endures as one of the most popular adventures of all time.

Like the original hero, Archer's hero, Danny, is sent away to prison for a murder he didn't commit. With the help of a cell-mate and mentor, he transforms himself from working class bloke to upper-crust nobleman and escapes from jail as an imposter. His only goal -- to make his enemies suffer a fate worse than death for framing him.

Like the original, this avenger has to find the pot of gold to bring down his enemies. Archer comes up with an ingenious turn that allows Danny to pull off an identity switch. It's a take on Mark Twain's "The Prince and the Pauper." Yeah, it's a stretch as a plot maneuver but Archer pulls it off.

Narrator Roger Allam pumps this story up considerably by enhancing each character with engrossing vocal interpretations. He does a terrific job subtly morphing Danny's East-End accent into an upper-crust West-End one.

Every character in the story draws you in but there's a old Scottish lawyer and a venerable British defense barrister that'll have you cheering. Both are superb combinations of what Archer has put on paper and narrator Allam has brought to them vocally. You can see them being played on screen by an older Alec Guinness and Peter O'Toole.

BOTTOM LINE
A sensational revenge story heightened by superb narration. You might find yourself sitting in a parked car finishing off a chapter.