Benedict Cramb is a young Londoner born into poverty who learned to use his cunning and wits to claw his way forward from day to day. Without a family to fall back on, he survived with his mates in a city and country which cared little for him. The coming of war in 1914 changed all of this. Forced to enlist by a judge, Ben and his mates end up serving in the Western Front trenches in 1916. The endless violence of World War I trench fighting transforms Ben’s life as he is accidentally treated as an officer after being wounded.
The same engagement which sends him to hospital kills all of his friends. Realizing that his acting as an officer will inevitably result in severe punishment, Ben stows away on a steamship bound for America. The British Army deserter adapts to New York City by again calling on the quick thinking that enabled him to survive London. Ben’s changing circumstances bring him in contact with an American con artist who quickly educates his eager student in new ways of making quick money.
At this point the story changes; you will find keeping up with several competing scams run by highly sophisticated con artists to be as challenging as any you’ve ever encountered. Giving away the plot would be a crime in itself, so I will avoid that misstep in favor of warning you to bring your best game with you when you approach Nicholas Griffin’s Ben and his peers. Never assume you are keeping abreast, let alone ahead, of the action. Remember, cons are called “artists” for a reason.