London, 1882. Alec Lonsdale, a young reporter on The Pall Mall Gazette, is following up a story about a fatal house fire. But the post mortem on the victim produces shocking results: Patrick Donovan's death was no accident. But why would someone murder a humble shop assistant and steal part of his brain? When a second body is discovered, its throat cut, and then a third, Lonsdale and his spirited female colleague, Hulda Freiderichs, begin to uncover evidence of a conspiracy that reaches to the highest echelons of Victorian society.