A labyrinthine Victorian tale of insanity, greed, robbery and murder.
After the death of her child, Isabel Ireland sinks into madness. When her husband, Henry, is found dead by the roadside, his plans for her welfare set nefarious machinations in motion. Isabel is left to the care of two trustees, ancient lawyer Mr. Crabbe and old family friend James Dixey, a naturalist whose estate is falling into ruin while he focuses on collecting unusual specimens. She’s consigned to a locked room, where she’s visited by a specialist in mental health and attended by Esther, a kindly maid who befriends her. At length, however, Esther runs off to London to be with Dixey’s former footman William, who now works for Pardew, a dishonest debt collector plotting a daring train robbery. One of Isabel’s two distant cousins applies to Mr. Crabbe for information and is fobbed off; the other fights for his life in the Canadian wilderness. Several years later, the discovery of a murderous weapon near the place Henry Ireland died brings in Captain McTurk of Scotland Yard. When an investigation shows that his death was wrongly dismissed as an accident, McTurk surmises that the murder and the train robbery are connected through a bizarre group of characters surrounding the hapless Isabel.
A tour-de-force in the style of Dickens. The eccentrics and Victoriana are so captivating that they make up for knowing most of the truth before the finale.