The Best Laid Plans

Close-up of woman’s face shows US Capitol reflected in her eyes
Reflection of the US Capitol is visible in the woman’s left eye.

The Best Laid Plans is a dazzling display of Sidney Sheldon’s cinematic flair.

The story is about Leslie Stewart, a PR and marketing genius who is smart, young, sexy, and ambitious, and Oliver Russell, the governor of Kentucky who is young, sexy, ambitious, but not nearly as smart as Leslie.

He’s also a drug addict.

When Oliver comes looking for PR help, he and Leslie become lovers.

Oliver finds a mentor in a Kentucky’s Senator Davis who sees his JFK-like charisma, properly managed, could take him to the White House.

Senator Davis is just the man to do the managing. That means tying Oliver closely to himself.

Leslie has no mentor, but she doesn’t need one. What she doesn’t learn by observation, she learns by doing research. She turns into a Katherine Graham-type power figure.

When Oliver abandons her for the Senator’s daughter, Leslie knows the best way to get back at him is to ruin his political career.

Sheldon’s story has no depth and it has mountains of implausibilities—where does Leslie get her money?—but all the main characters have enough real-world counterparts to keep readers on the edge of their chairs right up to the dramatic ending.

The Best Laid Plans by Sidney Sheldon
William Morrow. ©1997. 358 p.
1997 bestseller #7; my grade: B+

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

The Stars Shine Down

City skyscrapers are revealed in star-shaped cutout
Lara Cameron aims very high.

The Stars Shine Down is a made-for-viewing novel by Sidney Sheldon that never made it to the screen, which is where it belongs.

Lara Cameron is unwanted at birth, grows up unwanted, and forces herself on America’s male-dominated, commercial real estate world.

She is in her twenties in the 1980s , with only a high school education and no connections, but she knows one thing: OPM. People make fortunes by using other people’s money.

Lara ruthlessly goes after her goals. She has an instinctive sense of what the public wants and aims to deliver it months before other developers can.

She works very hard and she demands anyone who works for her work equally hard. She’s willing to take risks; she’s using other people’s money.

Though she uses people, demanding unquestioned loyalty, Lara is generous to those loyal to her.

She also is quite unable to believe any perspective than her own could be valid.

Stars is a totally absorbing story, easily read in an evening before an early bedtime. It’s also totally preposterous. Only when you finish the last page do you realize Sheldon duped you just as Lara duped people.

Lara Cameron isn’t a Horatio Alger heroine: She’s a nut case.

The Stars Shine Down by Sidney Sheldon
William Morrow. ©1992. 400 p.
1992 bestseller #6; my grade: B-

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

The Doomsday Conspiracy

Front dust jacket of The Doomsday Conspiracy

Doomsday Conspiracy reads like a novel Tom Clancy and Stephen King might have co-authored while drunk, with help from Danielle Steel to make the story end happily.

Robert Bellamy, a Navy Commanding Officer, is ordered to investigate the crash of a weather balloon in the Swiss Alps and identify the tour bus passengers who saw the wreck.

Bellamy thinks it’s a very odd job to be treated as top secret and given top priority, but he follows orders. Witnesses say they saw a space craft with two dead extraterrestrial creatures in it and an empty seat that had obviously been occupied. The witnesses even had their photographs taken in front of the spacecraft.

Each of the witnesses is murdered within hours of Bellamy’s reporting their identity to his superior officer.

When Bellamy learns that three of the witnesses have been killed, he begins to smell a rat.

The liner notes say the story unfolds to reveal “why the world must never learn an incredible secret shielded by an unknown force.”

If it did, I was laughing too hard at the crazy story to notice.

The Doomsday Conspiracy is certainly the most bizarre bestselling novel since Diane of the Green Van.

The Doomsday Conspiracy by Sidney Sheldon
William Morrow. ©1991. 412 p.
1991 bestseller #6; my grade: D+

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Memories of Midnight

Memories of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon is perfect for Hollywood: action-packed, implausible, and bloody.
The lettering’s graceful.

Like many of his other novels, Sidney Sheldon’s Memories of Midnight reads like the story line for a film. The characters are broadly described, the action is  fast-paced, and the plot is connected by linkages readers have to take on faith.

Catherine Douglas awakens one night in a convent remembering her name and nothing else. However, Constantin “Costa” Demiris, a nasty piece of work who is determined to get his revenge on anyone who ever hurt him in any way, remembers Catherine.

Demiris killed her husband and her husband’s lover. Now he hires an assassin to kill Catherine. Meanwhile, Demiris gives her a job in one of his offices and showers her with attention so he can keep an eye on her.

Demiris and his brother-in-law, Spyros Lambrou, hate each other. Lambrou hates Demiris for his treatment of Melina, who is his sister and Demiris’s wife.

There several other dastardly plots, related only because they’re in the same novel. Melina eventually realizes what a crud Demiris is, which precipitates the story’s ending. At the end of Memories of Midnight, there’s a dramatic rescue, a suspense-filled climax, and the villains get their just deserts.

It’s all action-packed, implausible, and bloody.

In short, it’s perfect for Hollywood, but a lousy novel.

Memories of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon
William Morrow. ©1990. 399 p.
1990 bestseller #4; my grade: C-

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

The Sands of Time

Art-free front cover of “The Sands of Time” has uses gold type on a red background.I suspect that Sheldon’s The Sands of Time was a bestseller because book buyers in 1988 expected a Sheldon novel to be a bestseller.

If the author had been Anonymous, Sands wouldn’t have sold.

Most of the story’s action is set in 1976 Spain, where the 1936-39 Civil War is still being waged by the Basque terrorist organization ETA.

The powerful OPUS MUNDO cabal wants Jaime Miró and his gang rounded up, tried, and killed.

In their search for Miró, soldiers enter a convent where they rape and murder Cistercian nuns. Four escape.

Three of the four escapees are true nuns; the fourth is a woman wanted for murder.

The Miró gang run into the escaped nuns. Unwilling to kill them, they’re forced to take them along as the gang splits up to escape from the soldiers.

As they travel, Sheldon tells about the early lives of  the women and what led them each to take holy orders.

Most of Sands is told in flashbacks and because the story has so many main characters the effect is like being surrounded by the press covering the verdict in a particularly grisly murder trial.

And none of the characters is someone you’ll remember the next day.

The Sands of Time by Sidney Sheldon
Morrow. ©1988. 412 p.
1988 bestseller #1; my grade: C-

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

Windmills of the Gods

Flowers and lash are art on dust jacket of “Windmills of the Gods”
   A whip and flowers

Windmills of the Gods is another in a long line of Sidney Sheldon novels destined—or perhaps designed—to be given visual treatment as a film or TV mini-series.

The story will keep readers’ attention for three or four hours, but they won’t remember it a day later.

The problem is that Sheldon’s stories have characters but they have no real people in them.

In Windmills, the newly-elected 42nd president of the United States chooses a widowed Kansas professor of Eastern European history to initiate his new be-friends-with-everybody foreign policy.

That policy doesn’t go down well with many long-time foreign service staff and with some major foreign governments.

It doesn’t help that Mary Ashley has never been further from Kansas than Colorado.

Nevertheless, Mary’s activities as Ambassador to Romania are given publicized as if she were a top Hollywood star.

After several missteps, Mary pulls off a series of diplomatic coups.

But the President’s enemies want to get rid of Mary and the President’s policies in one spectacular blow-up.

There are undoubtedly some people in the U.S. government as stupid as the people in Windmills, but putting an entire novel’s worth between the covers of one book strains credulity too far.

Windmills of the Gods by Sidney Sheldon
William Marrow. ©1987. 384 p.
1987 bestseller #6; my grade: C-

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

If Tomorrow Comes: A novel

An hour glass is art element on cover of “If Tomorrow Comes”
Carpe diem is thieves’ motto.

The dust jacket notes for Sidney Sheldon’s If Tomorrow Comes describe the book’s heroine as a “lovely” and “idealistic” young woman “framed” into a 15-year prison sentence.

Actually, Tracy Whitney buys a gun with deliberate intent to make New Orleans mob boss “pay for killing [her] mother,” who committed suicide.

Although her shot doesn’t kill the mobster, Tracy goes to jail, proving to her (and any mindless moron reading the novel) that the legal system is rigged against the innocent.

Moments before her carefully planned jail break, Tracy—who can’t swim—jumps into a lake to save a drowning child.

The publicity results in her being released before serving even a tenth of her sentence.

Once free, Tracy tries to go back to her old job in a bank. To her shock, the bank refuses to hire a convicted felon to work in its data processing department.

She does the only reasonable thing: She turns thief, using her “intelligence and beauty” to prey on bad, rich people.

Tracy meets a man her equal in intelligence, good looks, and pursuit of the thrill of profit-by-deception.

Sheldon manages to make this totally implausible story of a pair of amoral rascals as irresistible as a two-pound box of truffles.

If Tomorrow Comes by Sidney Sheldon
Morrow. ©1985. 403 p.
1985 bestseller #4; my grade: C

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

Master of the Game

 Blood and diamond on dust jacket of “Master of the Game”
That’s a diamond dripping blood.

Sidney Sheldon begins and ends Master of the Game at the 90th birthday party of Kate Blackwell, a rich, powerful, controlling woman.

Between the first and last chapters, Sheldon retraces the Blackwell history since 1900.

Jamie McGregor leaves Scotland at age 18 to pick up a fortune in African diamonds.

Picking up diamonds turns out to be more difficult than he expects, but Jamie is a hard worker and fast learner.

He makes sure the people who took advantage of him as a greenhorn are amply repaid when he makes his fortune.

Kate, Jamie’ daughter, inherits her father’s business empire, his compulsion to have the power money brings, and the brains to get it.

Kate has identical twin daughters, Alexandra who is a decent human being, and Eve, who is as pathologically power hungry as her mother and grandfather.

Master of the Game is typical Sheldon. The plot is simple and colorful.

The leading characters are drawn and colored in broad, cartoon-like strokes.

They use money, sex, and murder as everyday control mechanisms.

None of them ever learns anything except how to be better at being despicable people.

The only surprising facet of Master of the Game is how quickly the novel can be forgotten.

Master of the Game by Sidney Sheldon
W. Morrow. 1st ed. ©1982. 495 p.
1982 bestseller #4. My grade: C-

© 2019 Linda G. Aragoni

‘Rage of Angels’ could never end happily

Dark red rose drips blood on front dust jacket of “Rage of Angels” by Sidney Sheldon.
Blood drips from the rose.

In chapter one of Rage of Angels, after “interminable years of law school,” 24-year-old Jennifer Parker on her first day on the staff of the Manhattan District Attorney does something totally implausible for which she faces disbarment and even prison.

If you can get past that first chapter, the rest of Sidney Sheldon’s novel Rage of Angels is not bad. (Its shortcomings probably are less glaring in the 1983 TV miniseries.)

Jennifer is so in love with the idea of being a lawyer that she is persistent, hard-working, and willing to learn from her courtroom mistakes.

She’s not so good at learning from her bedroom mistakes.

Jennifer is infatuated first by lawyer Adam Warner, who keeps her from being disbarred.

She has a child by Adam, but she never tells him about Joshua for fear of ruining Adam’s presidential bid.

Later she becomes infatuated by Michael Moretti, a Mafia boss whose business operations are very badly hurt by Adam’s anti-corruption schemes.

Jennifer makes a mess of her personal life and refuses to take personal responsibility for the consequences.

Fortunately, Sheldon avoids the amateur writers’ mistake of pasting a happy ending on a story that couldn’t possibly have a happy ending.

Rage of Angels by Sidney Sheldon
W. Morrow. 1st ed. ©1980. 504 p.
1980 bestseller #3. My grade: C+

©2019 Linda G. Aragoni

Bloodline: Old themes revitalized

In Bloodline, Sidney Sheldon takes several tired themes, shakes them together, adds a most unusual detective, and serves up an entertaining, fast-reading mystery.

Couple embracing in front of Italian villa is image on dust jacket of "Bloodline" by Sidney Sheldon
Bloodline isn’t as sexy as the cover implies.

Elizabeth Roffe is the ugly duckling daughter of a wealthy pharmaceutical company CEO.

When her father is killed in a skiing accident, Elizabeth inherits control of the family-owned company.

Roffe and Sons is in financial difficulties and the other family members on the board of directors are clamoring for the company to be taken public.

Elizabeth wants to do what her father would have wanted.

She receives a confidential report her father had ordered which suggests someone has been deliberate sabotaging the company’s most promising projects.

Suddenly Elizabeth herself is in danger.

Elizabeth proposes to Rhys Williams, her father’s right hand man, and makes her new husband head of the company.

Into this romantic thriller, Sheldon inserts Max Hortung, an accountant, computer geek, and financial ferret whose goal in life is to be a police detective.

Max gets computers to tell him things and figures out who the villain is.

Sidney Sheldon has no great message for humanity, but it doesn’t matter.

Bloodline is fun to read and Max deserves to star in his own series of detective novels.

Bloodline by Sidney Sheldon
Morrow, 1978, ©1977. 444 p.
1978 bestseller #4. My grade: B+

©2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni