The year is 1916, Europe is at war, and American industrialists are getting rich. Englishman Benedict Cramb deserts the trench warfare of northern France and stows away on an outbound transatlantic ship. When the ship docks in New York City, a place untouched and largely unaware of the horrors of war, he realizes this is the place to reinvent himself. In the process, he soon falls under the sway of the urbane and mysterious Julius McAteer, who sees in Ben his chance to finely hone the tools of someone who can master the art of the con. They concoct a ruse, pick their mark – a blustering midwestern cattleman named Henry Jergens – and the game is afoot. In the process, Ben falls in love with teh beguiling actress Katherine Howells, who in turn is connected to even more men of vast means. But the further Ben follows the money in New York, the closer he moves back to the war in Europe and his shattering experiences there. This page-turner is rich in historical detail and filled with suspense, romance and adventure.
Griffin (The House of Sight and Shadow) hits his stride in his fourth novel, a stylish and ambitious story of cons conning cons. Griffin begins in the WWI trenches in France, where Londoner Ben Cramb, in his early 20s and handsome, fights the Huns alongside his friends until an explosion wounds Ben and kills his three pals. After a stint in a British hospital, Ben flees to New York City, where he dreads being discovered as a deserter. Soon, he falls in league with Julius McAteer, a crafty Irish conman who involves Ben in his scheme to rip off Henry Jergens, a Kansas City businessman. But Henry is running his own con on Julius as payback for robbing Henry's mentor 18 years earlier. As the cat-and-mouse game heats up and Ben sets his sights on Henry's beautiful actress wife, the U.S. inches ever closer to involvement overseas. An antiwar theme arises from beneath the ruses, and the swift plotting is marred only by the proliferation of characters' aliases, which become difficult to keep track of. Griffin's in fine form, and the novel's historical detail and multifaceted plot should keep readers riveted.