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The sensational events of the summer of 1907 – the disappearance of the Ascot Gold Cup from the Royal Enclosure, and the even more astonishing theft of the Irish Crown Jewels from a locked and guarded strongroom in Dublin Castle – remain mysterious but apparently random events. Only one man knows their secret.

Captain Richard Gaudeans, cashiered officer, conman and cracksman, cuts a more appropriate figure among the fairground booths where he earns his living than the corridors of power. But the course of the year takes him into both. And in both he uses his skill and cunning to outmanoeuvre everyone in his path.