It’s 1965, and London’s Kings Road is Swinging.
Red coated Chelsea Pensioners are shuffling along the pavements proudly brandishing their three, WW1 medals known affectionately as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, next to plastic coated André Courrèges clad models and bell-bottomed hairdressers. Life for the young, beautiful model, Charlotte Trubshaw is spoilt and hedonistic. Although her parents were killed when she was a child, in a mysterious accident on La Turbie overlooking Monaco, she and her sister Pippa, have passed through high society schools and led comfortable, sheltered lives, brought up by their wealthy grandparents on secluded Duck’s Island, near London’s Richmond Bridge.
Charlotte regularly puffs on a spliff, forgets to ring her agent and steals the latest frock from Biba on Saturday afternoons. She naïvely believes everyone, including her agent Gavin Robinson and the lecherous Count Sergei Belevsky-Zhukovsky, a Russian playboy, KGB agent and freelance informer, who has plans to sell the green-eyed beauty in Barcelona.
The grandparents love their girls and have never told them about their colourful and dangerous past or their work as professional assassins for the British government. Sam fell in love the moment he saw Phaedra through his rifle site, splashing in the Aegean Sea during the Nazi occupation of Greece. Phaedra’s love for him grew from the funeral pyres of her entire family at the Kalavryta massacre, when Sam saved her and the village from a burning church where the Nazis had trapped them. They have been together everyday since, even when Sam goes to work.
Back in the 60’s, when the experienced assassins execute a Mafia Godfather in Paris’ magnificent Marais, they have no idea that the repercussions will involve them with the escaped Nazi, Fräulein Ilse Klup, the grotesquely deformed Marco Sotori and their secret society, the Fondazione Nazionale di Cristo, which steals and sells babies with the help of the Spanish Catholic Church.
In 1907, the famous Grimaldi Circo travelled constantly like Gnus searching for rich pastures, from snow-white Russia to the azure Mediterranean, and pitched their enormous tent in Piombino, Italy. A headstrong mother, Jullietta Fratellini, Europe’s greatest trapeze artist, has dumped young Zamo in the circus like a cuckoo. Her philosophy is simple: ‘Like a female leopard, make you babies with the best man you can find, keep your heart locked up tightly, then move on, and when the kids could fend for themselves, chase them off as well. One day, even they would try to take your place at the top.’ After all, for Jullietta, nothing was more important than being the best flyer in the world.
After an accident, young Zamo is sent away from the circus to work as a stable boy at the lavish, Somerleyton Manor in Kent, where he meets two women who also risk their lives, not in the canvas sky of the circus, but on the streets of London, fighting for women’s rights. The gentile Lady Margaret Henrietta Trubshaw of Somerleyton Manor and the abused schoolteacher Megan Wodehouse are unlikely friends. Although when the self-reliant Megan, who has rejected the unrequited love of Doctor John Gale for the past two years, plans to sink a battleship under Tower Bridge, bringing London to a standstill, Lady Margaret, Zamo and the Doctor in ignorance of the plan have no choice, but to stand with the Suffragist campaigner in the largest women’s demonstration the British authorities have ever seen.
As the disparate lives of the central protagonists unfold and blend together, on the final night in Franco’s fascist controlled Barcelona, Sam and Phaedra discover that the contract they had feared, not only puts their own lives at risk, but also that of their kidnapped granddaughter Charlotte. The only way Sam can save his family and innocent bystanders is to fulfil the fatal prophecy he was told by the soothsayer when he was a child in the Grimaldi Circo, fifty-seven-years earlier.