"Too Grisham," Shep shoots back. "Besides, even those are opening up. People got so many ideas after reading The Firm, the US had to step in. Since then, they've been working with law enforcement for years."

- From The Millionaires by Brad Meltzer, Warner Books Inc, 2002.

Not all of Mr Meltzer's breathless conversation among rogues reproduced above is accurate, but the last sentence is. The Cayman Islands has indeed been working with law enforcement for years, and the dividend for doing so is clear: Cayman is now a member of a very small club of offshore jurisdictions standing tall among the global community of nations.

The days when the offshore world was the modern financial equivalent of the Wild West are over in this focused jurisdiction. They are also over in two, or at most three other similarly small, similarly remote places. Cayman now sits at the top table. Its standards - and this is the cause of some irritation - exceed those of many of the onshore competitors which have borne down so hard on their more efficient island competition.

Aware that tax evasion was afoot, an alphabet soup of initiatives was launched. The OECD, the FATF, the G-7, the IMF and others incorrectly lumped together everywhere small, everywhere relaxed (and everywhere Caribbean) - and they pointed the finger.

Cayman has not been entirely without blame; say ten years ago anything went in the world of money. Cayman's banking side did not always aspire to the highest international standards, although its insurance sector is and always has been as clean as, or cleaner than, any, anywhere. But by the time the US draped itself in the flag a year ago and declared, optimistically, an end to dirty money worldwide - an impossible conceit - Cayman was already tidying up its past and putting its best foot forward into a future where no one, neither Grisham, Ashcroft nor anyone else, would ever again be able to make accusations.

The international approval that Cayman has earned is bringing rich dividends in its wake. If the message has gotten out, even to pulp novelists such as Meltzer, it cannot be long before the rest of the world learns it, too.

Those in the international financial community have known it for some time. The growth in captive insurers in Cayman in the past two years underlines it. Yes, a hard market is the fuel, but even hard markets need the right venue in which to unfold. Cayman is proving the right venue.

In the past few years, growth in the Cayman insurance sector has not just been numeric; it has been measurable in depth and breadth. The Cayman model is one of closely-managed growth with the captive managers, bankers, attorneys and accountants as gatekeepers, working alongside the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority to ensure that a quality jurisdiction attracts only a quality clientele.

The past is past and the present is well-organised in Cayman; what intrigues the market observer is the future. The Cayman model has precluded the arrival of many physical presence companies, the giant reinsurers who have been attracted 1,500 miles to the north-east by another A-list jurisdiction - but that jurisdiction is increasingly a victim of its own success and age-old rivalries are now coming to the fore. Cayman is refreshingly free of internal struggles where the insurance sector is concerned. The term `Cayman Inc' is not used, but it would fit nicely. The professionals who work in the different sectors of the market do so in healthy competition, but close ranks when they must, in the best of team spirits.

Cayman insurance people have few concerns today. Overcapacity on the global stage might be one, but circumstances since September 11 have conspired to reduce the dangers of too much capital chasing too little business. Cayman's insurance sector is growing in line with its ability to cope. The right people are being attracted to the right place at the right time.

That is not to say that all will remain perfect in the Cayman insurance garden forever. Doubtless, issues as yet incomprehensible will raise their heads in due course. But in the four years that Global Reinsurance has produced its Cayman Islands special report, the sector has never enjoyed a healthier moment. In part, the credit is due to the professional cadre that works in and oversees the industry, but in equal part it is due to a brave decision (although no other was logically possible) to formally embrace the highest financial standards in the world.

Lloyd's is knee-deep in difficulties as much historical as modern. The New York market is still reeling from the unspeakable events of September 11. The Europeans cannot decide whether they are really committed to modernising their insurance sector. Only Cayman appears to have the train running on time, on the right track. Until the next great wave of circumstance comes along to change that, it is not hyperbole to suggest that, in the world of insurance solutions, Cayman is one of the places to be.

Roger Crombie is a chartered accountant and freelance journalist, living in Bermuda.