Thomas Shield is a schoolmaster in Regency England who becomes entangled in the affairs of the Frant and Carswell families, as tutor to the Frant boy and his friend Edgar Allan. Old Mr. Carswell is a domestic tyrant and the former business partner of Mr. Frant. Frant swindles his own bank and is found murdered; the beautiful Mrs. Frant becomes indebted to Carswell.
Shield slowly, almost unwittingly untangles what really happened while he is drawn to both Mrs. Frant and Carswell’s illegitimate daughter. Edgar Allan, who will one day be known as Edgar Allan Poe, plays a small but crucial role.
Andrew Taylor does a fine job of building a period mystery, in the very different social mores that obtained in the time of Jane Austen.