Eager to escape London following the scandal of her husband's death, Lady Fieldhurst accepts an invitation to spend the summer in rural Yorkshire as the guest of Sir Gerald and Lady Hollingshead. She soon discovers, however, that country life is not the panacea she had hoped for. Tension reigns and tempers flare at Hollingshead Place, due in large part to Lady Hollingshead's ambitions for her daughter, a lovely young lady destined for a brilliant marriage in spite of her love for a penniless curate. When a dinner party ends with the death of the vicar - a kindly old soul whose only sin appears to be the authorship of a dull local history - Lady Fieldhurst suspects foul play and sends for Bow Street Runner John Pickett, with one stipulation: since she is a guest in the house, Picket must keep his connection to Bow Street a secret. Pickett obliges by presenting himself as her footman, complete with livery and powdered hair. But Pickett soon has his white-gloved hands full sifting through old secrets, uncovering hidden passions, and dealing with a demanding housekeeper - not to mention avoiding the younger daughter of the house, a precocious 14-year-old with a school girl infatuation for the faux footman. Then there is the problem of Lady Fieldhurst herself, at once an able assistant and an all too pleasant distraction.
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