Andrew Raikes, con-man son of a gentleman failure, leaves London with 300,000 pounds-a fortune accumulated during more than fifteen years of criminal adventure, a fortune big enough to allow him to retire comfortably on the Devonshire estate his father had lost. One small mistake-his only mistake in those fifteen years-opens him up to extortion at the hands of the grotesque, immensely rich John Eustace Sarling. In a desperate effort to escape, Raikes sets out to destroy his blackmailer. But this effort only draws him deeper into a sea of crime whose depths he has hitherto hardly begun to sound-and into the private world of an auburn-haired enigma, Belle, the antithesis of everything he has hitherto wanted in a woman. Raikes is caught. He finds himself in the thick of a scheme only a millionaire or a madman could conceive-an audacious act of piracy aboard the great new Cunarder, Queen Elizabeth 2, during her maiden voyage. And Andrew Raikes, a man who tries to play his own game, is pushed inexorably forward on the file, a pawn in his master's gambit.