Enjoying a respite between marriages, TV personality Kris Nevan is reunited with his teenage daughter at the height of the Christmas season. Nevan is rich, successful and invulnerable, so he thinks. He is almost offhand in his down-playing of an ominous threat to separate him from his daughter, and his money from his bank account. He is soon to become acquainted with the force of evil lurking behind the facade of a pantomime clown who, in the guise of Santa Claus, blatantly snatches the girl in an audacious act of villainy.
Mortimer Kingsley, also known as Sunbeam the Clown, is the Gaffer, an ex-patriot Brit and vaudeville star, whose broken heart is held together by scars of bitterness and retribution. He and his select band of thugs have systematically plundered banks and payrolls with huge success in Auckland, hiding behind pseudonymous identities such as, Browser, Scales, Mags and Sailor and the Gaffer. Add to them thug and locksmith QC and the enigmatic Matron; part woman, mostly man. They have Nevan’s daughter and as planned they get their ten million dollars. The Gaffer is a generous, but hard master and those who make mistakes in his organisation pay the ultimate price. But mistakes have been made and a trail of devastation is uncovered to take the reader through the length and breadth of New Zealand’s North Island, out onto the Waitemata Harbour where the ranks of the Gaffer’s team are depleted in a serious act of housekeeping on his part. There is death on the high seas and death in the suburbs of Auckland as the Gaffer seeks to right things that have gone wrong for him. The perfect crime is suddenly not as perfect. His efforts to eliminate an eye witness to the kidnap go terribly wrong.
Newlywed Annie Elliot is unaware she is being hunted by the most notorious, and anonymous criminal in New Zealand. The Gaffer is too smart to allow her inadvertent appearance at the crime scene to interfere with his plans and he personally takes steps to ensure this one loose end is tidied. With the deed done, the ransom paid and Nevan’s daughter returned the Gaffer feels secure in his bunker at Part-Time Car Wreckers in West Auckland. He celebrates Christmas in a traditional wave of nostalgia. All that could go wrong has gone wrong and has been remedied. The time had come to relax and consider his next run of adrenalin brought about by living his life on the lip of a lion.
In his complacency he is unaware the net is closing on him and his fellow criminals. The violence begins as the scales of poetic justice tip one way and then the other. All hell breaks erupts at the Part-Time wrecking yard as discounted underlings break ranks and express opinions. It is suggested amid the fire and the fury that follows the curtain has come down for the last time on Sunbeam, the pantomime clown; but has it? Mortimer Kingsley has cashed up and is ready to move offshore and it is never clear who it was who died that Christmas morning in West Auckland. One thing is sure, it wasn’t Father Christmas. Maybe it was somebody pretending to be Father Christmas, but isn’t that what normally happens?