The great Mrs Lansdale is no more – and all her neighbours in Richmond are gossiping about her death. As the odious Mrs Midgely is quick to point out, her demise is 'very convenient indeed' for her nephew who has 'lost a remarkably tyrannical relation and gained a very fine inheritance.' Indeed, Mrs Midgely suspects that he has 'taken steps to hurry the poor lady out of this world.'
Flora, Dido's cousin, is anxious to prove young Mr Lansdale innocent, and Dido herself admits that he is 'a great deal too handsome to be hanged.' When the apothecary informs the magistrate that the cause of death was an overdose of laudanum, the young man's situation becomes perilous. But, as Dido sets about discovering the whole truth, the troubling questions multiply:
Why is Mrs Midgely so determined to cause trouble for Mr Lansdale? Why is there sheet music upon the pianoforte, if Mrs Lansdale never allowed the instrument to be played? Why is Mrs Midgely's card in Mrs Lansdale's drawing room if the two ladies were not acquainted? And why is little Miss Prentice borrowing books from the circulating library and tearing them up?
There are secrets hidden beneath the respectable façade of Richmond; secrets which must be uncovered if the truth about Mrs Lansdale's death is to be known. And, to make matters worse, Dido finds herself torn between the demands of justice and affection. Will she lose the regard of the man she loves if she pursues the mystery in spite of his disapproval?
'It is the duty of all rational men and women to ensure that justice is done,' she argues. But doubts will creep in. Perhaps, after all, it is more becoming in a lady to leave such matters to the authorities appointed to deal with them. And can a gentleman continue to esteem a woman who constantly argues with him? What is right? What is proper? And what is to be done when the demands of justice, love and propriety conflict?
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