Boston, 1869: As governess to the wealthy Hewitts, Irish immigrant Nell Sweeney belongs to no particular caste - hers is halfway between her brethren and the Brahmin. But now, a double murder involves both maid and mistress - and it will take cooperation by rich and poor alike to solve it. All of Boston is talking about the murder of Virginia Kimball. The famous actress, past her prime but still a renowned beauty, was found shot to death in her Beacon Hill townhouse, along with her young Irish - American maid, Fiona Gannon. Evidence suggests the two women traded shots after Virginia came upon Fiona trying to steal her famous diamond necklaces.
Devastated by this news, Fiona's uncle, who serves as driver to the wealthy Hewitts, begs Nell to find out what really happened. The Hewitts' estranged son, Will, accompanies Nell as she investigates Virginia's scandalous romantic liaisons. It turns out there are quite a few people who might have wanted her dead, particularly her rich and powerful lovers, whose amorous exploits she recorded in a red leather - bound journal - a journal that has been missing ever since her death. Now, terrified men all over Boston, once blackmailed by the actress, will do whatever it takes to make sure her infamous "Red Book" never sees the light of day.