Only Time Will Tell (Book 1)


Harry Clifton’s life begins in 1920 with the words, “I was told that my father was killed in the war.” Harry never knew his father, a dock worker in Bristol, but he learns about that life from his uncle, who expects Harry to join him at the shipyard once he’s done with school. It’s a sad prospect, so when Harry’s beautiful singing voice wins him a scholarship to an exclusive boys’ school and a ticket off the docks, this reader’s heart lifted, knowing his life will never be the same.

Harry meets his lifelong best friend at St. Bede’s: Giles Barrington, eldest son of one of the richest families in Bristol. He’s Harry’s savior in the harsh school world, but perhaps the best thing that comes from their friendship is Harry’s introduction to Giles’ sister, Emma, destined to become the love of Harry’s life.

As he enters adulthood, Harry finally learns how his father really died, but the awful truth he hears from his mother only leads him to question whether he really is the son of Arthur Clifton, a working man who spent his whole life on the docks, or the first-born son of a scion of West Country society, whose family owns a shipping line?

This first novel in Archer’s series The Clifton Chronicles includes a cast of colorful characters and takes us from the ravages of the Great War to the outbreak of the Second World War, when Harry must decide whether to take up a place at Oxford or join the navy and go to war with Hitler’s Germany—a decision made even more fraught by the coming to light of a deep secret that threatens everything Harry has ever believed to be true, even his love for Emma Barrington.

It’s a wonderfully ambitious idea, to bring to life 100 years of history over the course of one family’s story, their triumphs, tragedies, joys and heartbreaks. This first volume—and its cliffhanger!—bodes well for the rest of the series.

  1. Dick covey says:

    I discovered archer a couple years ago and couldn’t wait to get his next book and eagerly awaits his new book. I have also read his books about his imprisonment. His stories make reading a joy.

  2. Lynn Bryant says:

    I just finished Only Time Will Tell and have The Sins of the Father which I will begin shortly. There were two things in Only Time Will tell that left me a bit bewildered. One was when the arresting officers read Harry his Miranda rights. I was not aware that this was actually done in the US until well after the Miranda case in 1966. Anyway it jolted me a bit. The next is a bit more subjective. I felt Maisie had a share of the guilt for Harry and Emma’s situation. She after all elected to have sex with Hugo and may have deceived her husband as to Harry’s parentage. Also, she kept this from Harry and was prepared to let the wedding go on. While she is not the evil character Hugo is and sacrificed a great deal for Hugo, that does not absolve her of blame in not telling Harry of the possible circumstances of his birth. Especially as she could see how serious the relationship was becoming.

  3. Kay Blain says:

    Awesome series! Thank you, Mr. Archer.

  4. Curt Lader says:

    Can’t wait for Mightier than the sword. My only criticism of the series was in Only Time Will Tell when Harry was given the Miranda warnings (“you have the right to remain silent …) I understand it was a literary device and the author needed to use it for dramatic effect but as an American I felt that it was not necessary.

  5. Teja says:

    I must say this. I just love the way you describe things, the way you carry the story forward. It is like a journey where I can enjoy each and every part of it. I usually run through the book when I read. But your books I can’t. I can’t afford to miss any conversation. And I am desperately waiting for ‘Mightier than sword’. Kane and Abel is always the best. I wish you all success sir.

  6. Jack Duinkerk says:

    I have enjoyed reading all of The Clifton Chronicles and hope to read the next in the series while on holiday. Will there be a six to follow in 2016?

  7. Paula says:

    Im reading J.Archer’s book too, since im 12. I read all of them, for me Kane & Abel serie is the best. Although Im enjoing these chronicles. Hope someone can do something so I can buy them in Argentina. These time seems that each book is a love story of a generation, lost some kind of political and intrigue we were used to in his books.

  8. Patrick Warner says:

    I never used to get time to read a book unless I was on holiday but after changing jobs recently and becoming a rail commuter for the first time in my working life, I have taken up reading on my commute.

    I have become hooked on The Clifton Chronicles having discovered the first book in early December. I haven’t been able to stop and have binge read all four back to back and can’t wait to read the new one when it comes out in February.

    Where the story goes, who can tell but I’ll be following avidly and wonder if we may see the story dramatised on television at some stage. Thank you Jeffrey, do please keep up the good work!

  9. Nillima says:

    I think all of us can identify with Harry when he is trying to fit in at St Bede’s…though we hail from different backgrounds we all have those scenarios where we feel we do not belong and feel alienated by those around us…

  10. Angela turtle says:

    i have read all of his books my favs are as the crow flys Kane and able with the follow ups the prodigal daughter and shall we tell the president but the Clifton chronically have had me gripped for the last few years can’t wait for number 4 to come out in the UK I believe in March 2015 and I read most of his books every year

  11. Manisha Sharma says:

    I just Love your books Mr. Archer all the twists and turns are just great and speaking about Only Time Will Tell its one of the best books I’ve ever read & cant wait for the next book in the series.

  12. Tina Kalpesh says:

    The series is simply super! I have read, loved and re-read the first four of the series. Am really looking forward to Mightier Than The Sword! Amazing series! So glad to have it in my collection.

  13. Heather priest says:

    Brilliant book! As always! Can’t wait to read the next one in the series.

  14. G. Schleis says:

    I’ve read and enjoyed Mr. Archer’s books for many years and i didn’t know about the Clifton Chronicles at all; one day i was at the airport and i bought “Only Time Will Tell” out of duress (10 minutes before my flight). I had no idea what i was getting into! had i known the book was part of a series, i wouldn’t have bought it because Mr. Archer has this innate ability to keep me reading his books and i am completely powerless to put them down. At the time i had lots going on with work and family, but there i was wanting to read all the Clifton Chronicles and wanting more : ) I enjoyed reading about Harry, his friends and the docks and i can totally see him getting paddled on the rear for not doing his homework and skipping school. There are lots of tidbits in this book to keep you rooting for young harry and i get the feeling that he was forced to grow up too fast. In any case, he became a wonderful gentleman and his future is bright. I wonder though if Mr. Archer put a little bit of himself in Harry, meaning eventually harry grows up and becomes an author. In any case, this book is great and impossible to put down. I’m sure i wouldn’t be the only one to encourage Mr. Archer to pursue making these series a movie; i’m sure it would be a great success. Thank you Mr. Archer, looking forward to “Mightier than the Sword”.

  15. Philip Power says:

    I only have started reading your books early last year. “Only Time Will Tell” was my first book. I was hooked to it already. It’s your twists that got me excited all along your book. Almost immediately I bought and read the later books of the series as well as Kane and Abel afterwards. I love the way you leave a cliffhanger ending in most books so that we will know that there will be always another book. To be honest, most of your characters are actually among my inspirations. They show that nothing can stop you from achieving something. For instance Harry, from a poor family of dockers, could get a scholarship, build true friends, and get the love of his life who he eventually married. Although I noticed that most of your main characters are actually wealthy people, I hardly see anything relating to money in the book apart from parts relating to stockbroking and banking which is good to me. It means we can find out their true instincts which are often covered with money. Can’t wait for your latest book!!

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