When young orphan Bridie Tantallon is sent from turn-of-the-century London to Edinburgh to help her great-aunt Lady Otranta complete her memoirs, she does not expect to meet serious obstacles. So she is not deterred by her aunt's pretended dipsomania, the various half-hearted attempts made on her life, or even her growing love for Lady Otranta's long-suffering heir, Andrew. Otranta's memoirs, detailing her rise from a music hall magician's assistant to a confidante of Queen Victoria, are interwoven with the more recent tale of Bridie's adventures. It is hard to say which is more plodding. A period thriller in which all the menaces are fake, the cliffhangings hang no more than an inch off the ground, and everyone dies in bed. Dangerous magic? More like an abracadaver.