Former Archivist Mary Wandwalker hates bringing bad news. Nevertheless, she confirms to her alma mater that their prized medieval alchemy scroll, is, in fact, a seventeenth century copy. She learns that the original vanished to colonial Connecticut with alchemist, Robert Le More. Later the genuine scroll surfaces in Los Angeles. Given that the authentic artefact is needed for her Oxford college to survive, retrieving it is essential.
Mary agrees to get the real scroll back as part of a commission for her three-person Enquiry Agency. However, tragedy strikes in Los Angeles. Before Mary can legally obtain the scroll, a young man is murdered, and the treasure stolen.
Murder and theft are complicated by the disappearance in the UK of a witch mysteriously connected to the scroll. While Mary’s colleague, Caroline, risks her sanity to go undercover in a dodgy mental hospital, her lover, Anna resorts to desperate measures. These, and Anna’s silence over blackmail, threaten the survival of the Agency.
Mary teams up with the victim’s brother to track the killer, and the real alchemy scroll. Solving crimes on two continents will involve a rogue pharmaceutical corporation, Janet the witch, the Holywell Retreat Center near Oxford, plus the trafficked women they support, a graduate school in California, and a life-threatening mountain-consuming wildfire.
Can these inexperienced detectives triumph over corrupt professors and racist attempts to rewrite history? Can they remake their fragile family? Will the extraordinary story of Robert Le More prove a source of hope for today?