Sarah Jane Fearing, the sole offspring of a father who desperately wants a male heir, has grown up in the imposing rural mansion of one of England’s most influential banking families. At the centre of Sarah’s world stands her charming, generous uncle Frank, the only relative who seems to have escaped the straightjacket of ponderous respectability that so effectively stifles the Fearing family. Frank’s rebellions afford Sarah delight and hope, until his extravagant lifestyle leads him deeper into debt and manoeuvres him into a disastrous marriage.
Frank’s wedding to a coldly ambitious woman produces the family’s longed-for male scion, but the parents fall to quarrels, and then to murder. And Sarah is drawn inexorably into a morass that threatens the survival of the entire family.