On March 4, 1861, the air at the inaugural ball is charged with hope and apprehension. The last thing anyone wants is any sort of hitch in the proceedings, so Lincoln's trusted entourage is on their guard: Allan Pinkerton, head of the president's security team, is wary of potential assassins, and Lincoln's oldest friend, Joshua Speed, is by his side, along with Speed's nephew, Adam Quinn, a jack-of-all-trades who's been called back from the Kansas frontier to serve as Lincoln's assistant.
But despite the tight security, trouble comes anyway: a man is found stabbed to death in a nearby room, only yards from the president. Not wishing to cause alarm, Lincoln dispatches young Quinn-instead of the high-profile Pinkerton-to discreetly investigate. Soon enough, Quinn is relying on the observation skills he developed as a scout and on unexpected allies - a determined female journalist and a free man of color - as he navigates high society, political personages, and a city preparing for war in order to solve the crime.
When a newspaper report of a medical miracle catches Matt’s eye, he and India go in search of Dr. Hale in the hope he is more magical doctor than miracle worker and can lead them to Chronos. But Hale turns out to be an apothecary magician keen to educate the public about magic.
Their disappointment at not finding Chronos is soon forgotten when Hale is murdered, and Matt becomes a suspect. With Matt’s nemesis Sheriff Payne influencing the investigating detective, India and Matt know they must find the real killer, or risk his freedom, and ultimately his life. Time is running out as they hunt for a killer capable of turning medicine into poison with a magic spell, as well as continue the search for Chronos. A search that must end in success before Matt’s malfunctioning watch stops altogether.