Briony Marsden has led a hard life, forced to do the work of a grown man while enduring her drunkard father's taunts and blows. But when he goes too far one day, her fate becomes even worse as she makes her way alone in a heartless world.
Servant girl Betsy McBride thinks she has as much right as any girl to set her cap at Tom Brodie, the most dashing young man in the district. When her master asks her to help out the Brodie family she jumps at the chance to get a bit closer to him.
When two men are discovered, with their throats cut, in the vestry of St Matthew's Church, the police are faced with an intriguing challenge for one of the victims was ex-Government minister Sir Paul Berowne, the other, Harry Mack, a local tramp and alcoholic.