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Stephen Swan is amazed when he hears that the uncle he thought had been killed in the Blitz is actually alive. For nearly four decades, Eldritch Swan has been locked away in an Irish prison and now, at last, has been released. Shocked and suspicious, Stephen listens to the old man’s story and is caught up in a tale that begins at the dawn of World War II, when Eldritch worked for an Antwerp diamond dealer with a trove of Picassos—highly valuable paintings that later disappeared. Stephen, who finds his uncle by turns devious, charming, and brazen, then meets Rachel Banner, a beautiful American who may have inherited the Picassos—and is determined to see justice done for her family. But in this tale of revenge and redemption, justice is the ultimate illusion. Eldritch, Stephen, and the woman Stephen has fallen in love with soon find themselves fighting for their lives—against sinister forces still guarding a secret that must never be revealed.
At a wedding party in Cornwall, Chris Napier, the bride’s uncle, is accosted by a drunken, disheveled, and evidently distraught intruder. The man turns out to be Chris’s childhood friend Nicky Lanyon, whose father was hanged for the murder of Joshua Carnoweth-Chris’s great-uncle and the man behind the Napier family’s inherited state of affluence. Pleading his father’s innocence, Nicky commits suicide, forcing Chris to test the truth of his friend’s conviction. The conduct of more than one member of his own family begins to dog his hesitant footsteps into a past slowly darkening with the shadows of corruption, greed, lies, child abuse, and good old-fashioned revenge.