The year is 1916, Europe is at war, and American industrialists are getting rich. Englishman Benedict Cramb deserts the trench warfare of northern France and stows away on an outbound transatlantic ship. When he arrives in a city untouched and largely unaware of the horrors of war, he realizes New York City is the place to reinvent himself. In the process, he soon falls under the sway of the urbane and mysterious Julius McAteer, who sees in Ben his chance to finely hone the tools of someone who can master the art of the con. They concoct a ruse, pick their mark - a blustering midwestern cattleman named Henry Jergens - and the game is afoot. But the further Ben follows the money in New York, the closer he moves back to the war in Europe and his shattering experiences there.