Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less
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Harvey Metcalfe, over 40 years, has mastered the shady deal in advancing from messenger boy to mogul. But by selling inflated oil stock, he has cheated the wrong men - Stephen Bradley, an American professor at the University of Oxford, Dr Adrian Tryner, a Harley Street physician, Jean-Pierre Lamanns, a French art dealer with a gallery in London, and James Brigsley, heir to an earldom. Each has bought stock and suffered when it failed. Bradley learns of Metcalfe's responsibility, and organizes the other three to get their money back. They are to each come up with a plan.
Metcalfe, a Polish immigrant to the United States, rises from messenger boy to corporate magnate, combining business skills with little loyalty and much ruthlessness. By the 1960s, he is a multi-millionaire.
Taking advantage of a British decision to allow companies to claim North Sea drilling rights with little money down, Metcalfe creates Prospecta Oil, a paper company designed to look good and bring in investors to be left when the bottom drops out. Metcalfe's agents hire David Kesler, a Harvard MBA who talks up the company to the four protagonists, and they buy stock. But Harvey (indirectly) sells out at the top of the market, the stock crashes, and the four are left with major losses.
Stephen discovers the fraud, that there is no legal recourse, and organizes the four to steal the money back, using Harvey's interests and weaknesses. All four are to come up with plans, and three quickly do. James, however, is unable to. He is more successful at wooing Anne Summerton, an American model.
Jean-Pierre is successful at getting Harvey to buy a fake Van Gogh painting - he has always wanted one. When Harvey heads to Monte Carlo on vacation, a pill in his drink at the Casino causes severe abdominal pain which is made to look like a Gallstone, and Adrian operates, though barely breaking the skin, and collects a large bill. Stephen impersonates an Oxford official, as do the others, and gets Harvey to think he is getting an honorary degree in exchange for a contribution. James, though unable to come up with a plan of his own, has been crucial to the success of the others' plans - and when he meets Anne's father, learns that he is none other than Harvey.
James instructs the others to execute a complex financial fraud, and flies them to Boston for the wedding as ushers, though not giving formal invitations. They learn who the bride's father is. The wedding check from Harvey, plus ransacking Harvey's greenhouses for wedding flowers, reduces the million dollar debt to $1.24, though Stephen sulks on the plane home about the missing money.
They land in London to learn that a new BP oil field has been discovered next to Prospecta Oil's tract, sending shares to record highs. They now have the stolen million back, and the shares are worth well over a million. Stephen proposes they figure out how to give the stolen million back.