Returning home through a London night in July 1816, Captain Gabriel Lacey is surprised to see a well-dressed, elegant woman stride to the middle of an unfinished bridge. Following her in curiosity, Lacey is on hand to rescue her from an attack by a footpad. As grateful as she is for the help, the lady refuses to give her name and direction, and so Lacey takes her to his own rooms in a street off Covent Garden to rest.
He discovers that she is one Lydia Westin, wife of Colonel Roehampton Westin, who has recently been accused of murdering an English officer in Portugal during the Peninsular War. Before he could come to trial, however, Colonel Westin was found dead at the foot of the staircase in his own house.
Lydia Westin, to Lacey’s surprise, declares he was murdered and that she knows the culprits’ identities. Intrigued, Lacey begins to investigate, and soon finds himself mired in scandals past and present, with a journalist dogging his footsteps, eager to print Lacey’s latest adventure.