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Sixteen-year-old Annie Ember lives in grinding poverty in the city...until one day in a mysterious shop she discovers a tiny and ancient ivory elephant. The subsequent murder of her sister's husband leaves Annie homeless, and she is found employment in a country house far away.
Sir Hampton Smolte returned from India with a great fortune - and also a dark obsession with that conquered land. His mansion is fanciful and extraordinary, like a raja's palace set down in green English parkland.
Annie becomes a scullery maid in this strange place full of stuffed animals, eccentric servants and the even more peculiar Smolte family. Soon she catches the eye of the handsome Rupert and gradually succumbs to his advances...till one night she learns in disgust and horror just what his lovemaking entails.
Annie's helpless fury then transforms this dream-house into a whirlwind of panic and the impossible...legging in all the avenging power of the jungle, and unlocking Hampton Smolte's darkest secrets.