Sarah Woolson has always dreamed of becoming a lawyer. The trouble is that, in 1880, everyone believes a woman belongs in the home, married and taking care of babies. Using her brains and a little bit of subterfuge, Sarah somehow manages to finagle her way into one of the city's most prestigious law firms, becoming an associate attorney and acquiring her very first client, a lovely young society matron accused of brutally stabbing to death her wealthy but abusive husband. Sarah's sure of her client's innocence, but with the discovery of her secret lover, it becomes nearly impossible to prove.
When four more victims fall prey to the killer's knife, Sarah fears she's bitten off more than she can chew. Bucking her boorish employer, the judicial system, and the very people who should have been on her side, Sarah finds herself embroiled in shady legal maneuvers, a daring Chinatown raid, a secret and very scandalous sex club, and the most powerful and dangerous tong lord in the city's Chinese District.