London's streets seethe with rumour and conspiracy as the navy battles the French at sea. Carts and cattle fight for space amid the bustle and stench of the city. And while the banks of the Thames swarm with life, a body is dragged from its murky waters. In another part of town, the privileged enjoy a brighter world of complacent wealth and intoxicating celebrity. But as society revels in its pleasurable diversions, a darker plot is being played out. Yet some are willing to look below the surface, no matter how unsavoury the depths. Mrs Harriet Westerman, frustrated at the restricted life of a gentlewoman, believes passionately in justice. Reclusive anatomist Gabriel Crowther is fascinated by the bones beneath the skin. Invited to seek the true nature of the dead man, they risk censure for an unnatural interest in murder. But when the safety of a nation is at stake, personal reputation must give way to the pursuit of reason and truth.