In 1908, when a well-bred but penniless semi-orphan graduates from boarding school, there isn't much she can do to avoid staying on, useless and unwelcome, at the home of a rich relation. But tall, plain Lavinia is determined to escape somehow from twittery Aunt Zilpha and her devoted, jealous companion; and soon Lavinia has a paying job with the handsome aristocratic young architect her aunt would like to snare for her--and with his gruff, ginger-haired partner whom Lavinia prefers. She also stumbles early on across a mysteriously altered date on a tombstone, and hears about the strange disappearance seven years previously of the disagreeable old man who had been the architects' boss and the owner of Zilpha's present home. Lavinia herself finds old Jenks' body stuffed away in a sack; someone seems out to get her too, and there are many suspects, including the young architects. The eventual exposure of Aunt Zilpha as the murderer involves a lot of mechanical unraveling, and Lavinia's engagement (after two weeks) to the ""ginger cat"" is a bit too hasty to credit. Also, as with many old-time heroines with modern virtues, Lavinia's nonconformity must be taken on faith: she's surprisingly free from class consciousness and female modesty, and she cuts off her hair on a whim, though she's never heard of another woman so doing. However, girls attracted by the combination of mystery, romance, and historical setting will find it easy to take her part.