Lucca, City State for hundreds of years, keeper of secrets and relics, possessor of the Holy Face of Christ, has Napoleon's army at its gates, the emperor having declared himself King of All Italy. A continent away in Bexleyheath, Mabel Flinchurst gazes down from her window upon the Advent Fair. With all the hustle and bustle she doesn't see the pilgrim walk into the church of St Anthony's across the square, and slit his own throat. But Lucca and this suicide are strands from the same rope, a rope that is being wound unseen about Mabel, ready to rip her from her cosy world. When Mabel's friend, Toby, is kidnapped she enlists the help of compulsive list-maker and missing-persons finder, Whilbert Stroop. Together they are drawn into a mystery that began many centuries ago, and soon they find themselves losing a race against time and treachery, as an unknown enemy, and murder, begin to snap at their heels...