Adam Quince works in the morgue of a London scandal sheet under the tutelage of a cynic named Noyes whose personal corruption is equal to his job of distorting the news. Quince's own credentials include a wife and child discarded on his upward climb from the Manchester slums to his tenuous position in Fleet Street. Quince is sent to the bedside of Nada Templeton, a dying young actress, to collect her obituary where he meets her ""protector"", John Purefoy, who calls himself the Raker, after a qotation from Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year. He falls in love with the actress and under the influence of the Raker who was devoted himself to the idea of death. When Nada recovers and leaves Quince, he turns for solace to the Raker who demonstrates the logic of his life by committing suicide. This act finally awakens Quince to the emptiness of his own life and he becomes heir to the legacy of the Raker though his metamorphosis seems scarcely equal to Purefoy's consistency of style and flair. In any case, Quince's passage from one abysmal level of awareness to another hardly seems of any special significance.