Amid the fading grandeur of a country estate, Clara lives in the care of Mr Crowe, a man of many mysterious gifts, and his faithful manservant, Eustace. Free from rules and lessons, she inhabits a silent world of her own. She has her books, and her secret places.
Mr Crowe was once the toast of the finest salons: a man of learning and means, he travelled the world, dazzling all who met him. Now, he devotes himself to earthly pleasures, while his great library gathers dust and his once magnificent gardens grow wild.
But Mr Crowe and his extraordinary gifts have not been entirely forgotten. When he commits a crime of passion, he attracts the attention of Dr Chastern, the figurehead of a secret society to which Crowe still belongs. When Chastern comes to call him to account, his sinister attention is soon diverted to Clara. For Clara possesses gifts of her own, gifts whose power she has not yet fully grasped. She must learn to use them quickly, if she is to save them all.