Beyond detection by the human eye and spotted only by electronic sorting machines in the Bank of England, a flood of phony...



Beyond detection by the human eye and spotted only by electronic sorting machines in the Bank of England, a flood of phony one-pound notes hits London. Since the bills are flawless masterpieces created through offset photography, no one is caught passing them and Scotland Yard is left clueless (can it be an IRA plot?), aside from the rumor from an informer that a forger nicknamed ""the Magician"" has vowed to ""break the Bank of England."" That's 1972. The triumphant forger then goes underground for two years to prepare his second act of vengeance: a superb, beautifully colored five-pound note, its falsity once more detectable only by a scanning machine. But this is as much a Walter Mitty story as it is a tale of counterfeiting, for it's one Mark Yarry, an American optical-parts salesman in England, who carries off the triumphant disguise of being a Mafia associate, out to make a big kill on bogus bills, and so breaks the case--sort of. One day, riding in a London cab, Yarry is offered the purchase of some fake fivers. He suggests that he might like to buy quite a few, and the cabbie says he'll return the next day after he's talked it over with his contact. Yarry goes to the Yard, where detectives explain that the important thing is to get the forger and his plates, not a middle man. So Yarry strings the cabbie David along, offering to buy heavily if he can talk with somebody higher. Next, Dave returns with Brad, who actually owns and runs the cab company Dave works for, and Yarry swings into a tremendous fantasy, painting himself as a ""family"" member back in the States. But he refuses to do business with Brad, who says he can only sell fake bills in thousand-note batches. Yarry cries that he would endanger himself 20 times over, making all these separate payments and collections. He must talk with someone even higher. Eventually a phone call from Mr. Sidney Peter-Lee, the Magician himself, gives Yarry the opportunity to play on Lee's flawed artistic genius, or egomania, in setting up an arrest situation. . . but Lee is still too smart--and the negatives and plates are still undiscovered ""somewhere"" though Lee is just ending a five-year sentence. This is enormously amusing (and filmable), but even more interesting is the lore of forgery, a subject of bottomless fascination.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1981