A 1976 novel which was the debut of the British writer Jeffrey Archer.
Four upper-class men in the UK buy the stocks of a new, promising company, Prospecta Oil. But soon it turns out that the supposed company was a fraud, perpetrated by the conman Harvey Metcalfe, and the protagonists find themselves utterly bankrupt. Without any faith in the law or the police, the protagonists decide to get even by conning their money, million dollars in total, back out of the fraudster—"not a penny more, not a penny less."
Each of the four is to come up with a plan, based on their personal area of expertise. Can they succeed?
Was adapted into a mini-series in 1990, and received an Interactive Fiction
adaptation in the late eighties.
Not a trope more, not a trope less:
- Caper Rationalization: The protagonists are trying to get even with the fraudster who conned them.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Rosalie Metcalfe is mentioned throughout the story, then turns out to be "Anne", James's girlfriend.
- Crash-Into Hello: Harvey Metcalfe met his future wife when she accidentally bumped his car.
- Double Caper: In the twist ending, the Prospecta Oil stock prices suddenly skyrocket after an oil strike nearby. The protagonists conclude that now they have to come up with a way to return the money.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Metcalfe might say: "James, I am your father-in-law."
- Not That Kind of Doctor: When Stephen gives Metcalfe a tour of the University of Oxford during the Encaenia, Metcalfe demonstrates his ignorance in several ways, such as stating "all doctors mean to me is pain and money" when he is told of the holders of doctorates.
- Police Are Useless: The police is well aware of Metcalfe's history, but they themselves explain that the chance of getting a conviction is nil.
- Shown Their Work: Writing the novel involved a lot of research on subjects such as surgery, the traditions of the University of Oxford, or horse racing.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: We don't learn the protagonists' plans beforehand, only learn of them as they are executed. They all succeed, even with Metcalfe occasionally behaving unexpectedly.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: James buys the Prospecta Oil stocks in hopes of proving his cleverness to his father to finally earn his respect.
- We Named the Monkey Jack: Metcalfe's racing horse, Rosalie, is named after his daughter.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: We never learn what happened to David after his role as the pawn in Metcalfe's scheme was done. He is last seen escaping to the United States, and then barely mentioned again.