After a modest wedding ceremony, Bow Street Runner John Pickett and his bride, Julia, the former Lady Fieldhurst, set out for a wedding trip to Somersetshire, where Pickett must face his greatest challenge yet: meeting his in-laws.
Sir Thaddeus and Lady Runyon are shocked at their daughter’s hasty remarriage - and appalled by her choice of a second husband. Pickett, for his part, is surprised to learn that Julia once had an elder sister: Claudia, Lady Buckleigh, disappeared 13 years earlier, leaving no trace beyond a blood-soaked shawl.
When Sir Thaddeus confides that his wife is convinced Claudia’s spirit now haunts her childhood home, Pickett sees a chance to redeem himself in the eyes of Julia’s family. He agrees to investigate and, hopefully, lay the Runyon "ghost", whoever - or whatever - it is. Matters take a grisly turn when Sir Thaddeus' groom is discovered with his throat slit.
The timing could hardly be worse, for the whole village is aflutter with the news that Lord Buckleigh has brought home a new bride just when Major James Pennington, the vicar’s son who was Claudia’s childhood sweetheart, has returned on leave from war in the Peninsula. The major was apparently the last person to see Claudia alive, and Pickett is convinced he knows more about her disappearance than he’s telling. Suddenly, it seems the distant past is not so distant, after all. It may not even be past....