In the first gray of a mid-September morning, Thomas Pitt, mainstay of Her Majesty’s Special Branch, is summoned to Connaught Square mansion where the body of a junior diplomat lies huddled in a wheelbarrow. Nearby stands the tenant of the house, the beautiful and notorious Egyptian woman Ayesha Zakhari, who falls under the shadow of suspicion. Pitt’s orders, emanating from Prime Minister Gladstone himself, are to protect-at all costs-the good name of the third person in the garden: senior cabinet minister Saville Ryerson. This distinguished public servant, whispered to be Ayesha’s lover, insists that she is as innocent as he is himself. Could it be true?
In the dead man’s less-than-stellar reputation, Pitt finds hope. But in ancient Alexandria, where the victim was once an army officer, hope grows dim. For there, Pitt receives intimations of deadly entanglements stretching from Egyptian cotton fields to Manchester cotton mills, from the noxious London slum known as Seven Dials to the madhouse called Bedlam.
Meanwhile, in a packed courtroom at the Old Bailey, time is ticking away for Ayesha and Saville. With Pitt and his clients racing against the hangman, the trial reaches its pulse-pumping climax.