Not Quite Heaven

genre: Economic Thriller

Who is stealing pensions by the million? In a picturesque village all is not well. Bribes, kidnapping, financial skulduggery and mysterious deaths set Sylvia on a dangerous path to castles, cocktails, and cabs, while trying to find her son and stop a billionaire’s quest for ever more power. 

Sylvia, recently widowed, lives in affluent comfort in the shires of England and is a pillar of village life. She takes the train up to London to meet with three equally well-heeled friends for an elegant afternoon tea. Colette, a charming Parisian, and flamboyant New Yorker Nancy are already there, but they get shocking news that Margaret is not coming because her husband has just died mysteriously and there is a financial scandal brewing. Sylvia has an intuition that all is not right with her deceased husband’s pension and investments (and by implication hers) and heads over to the City of London to investigate.

Sylvia finds that her old investment manager has died and been replaced by a shifty Australian called Rupert Higgins who has moved the business to a hovel in a City back alley. Higgins has roped Sylvia’s son Justin into a dangerous deal which has gone wrong and now Justin and her grandson are being held until they pay a ransom. Higgins says that Sylvia must go and see the dynamic financial maestro behind the scheme – Hugo Montserrat – at a party this weekend.

At the meeting of the village historic society, Sylvia and the village ladies discover they have been sent a large bribe – from Hugo Montserrat. Sylvia is determined to save her son and decides to see Montserrat despite warnings from her friends and the village ladies.
Sylvia is helped in her navigation of the appalling complexity of the British train system by a helpful ticket clerk, who is from Zimbabwe. Sylvia tells the clerk she is off to save her son; he tells her that his mother is a political prisoner. 

Sylvia arrives at Montserrat’s place, which turns out to be a castle. She is met by the funereal butler amid a raucous party. Two young hedge-fund wizzes, Priscilla and Apple, smuggle Sylvia into the party to try and find Montserrat. However, the charismatic and suave Montserrat finds Sylvia in one of the formal gardens and he tries to wow her with astronomically expensive vintage champagne. Sylvia throws it in the pond and demands to know where her son is being held.

As Montserrat talks, the grandness of his scheme becomes apparent. Not only is he trying to get his hands on the whole pension fund, but he wants to use the money for an airport. 

Montserrat tried to cut a deal with Sylvia, so that she would be all right, but it would mean all the others dependent on the pension fund would lose everything. She admonishes him for his greed and callousness then walks out of the party. Montserrat is intrigued: no one normally stands up to him.

Sylvia eventually makes it back to her village, just in time to do the reading in church, even though she is still in her party clothes. Then she calls an emergency historical society meeting and narrowly convinces the village ladies not to accept the bribe.

Colette and Nancy come roaring into the village in Nancy’s Ferrari to check on Sylvia, whose house has been broken into, several things being taken and a cryptic note left. Nancy and Colette realize that their husbands and their companies’ pension funds were raided by Montserrat too.

Sylvia, Colette and Nancy race to London. Phyllis Norton, Sylvia’s local MP and school friend, is the minister for transport. They appeal to her to stop Montserrat from building the airport and ruining the village, but far from stopping the scheme, Phyllis tells Sylvia that she supports it and has given governmental support for it. Furthermore, she is in line for a few nice perks from Montserrat, once she steps down from being the MP.

On the street, in front of Phyllis’ house Sylvia runs into Higgins, Priscilla and Apple who are on their way in to finalize the deal with Phyllis. Stunned and upset, Sylvia accepts a ride from a black cab driver who recognises her from London and offers to take her a free ride all the way home to her village. When she enters her house she finds Montserrat sitting in her drawing room.

Montserrat says that Sylvia reminds him of his mother and thanks to Sylvia standing up to him, he has come up with an alternative plan not to build the airport and disturb her village. 

Instead the government will pay him not to build the airport with carbon offsets. This scheme was inspired by Sylvia’s son, Justin, whose release Montserrat has negotiated. With the new scheme Montserrat will do even better and he has decided to go back to his home country to start a university. 

On her way to London to be reunited with Justin, Sylvia realizes that she still has the bribe money. She decides to give it to the station attendant so that he can go see his brave, activist mother in Africa.