In 1866, a schoolboy drowns in a mysterious accident. Present are Hugh Pilaster and his older cousin Edward, the dissolute heir to a banking fortune and Micky Miranda, son of a brutal South American landowner. Caught in the ensuing maelstrom are sly matriarch Augusta Pilaster, rich heir Solly Greenbourne and slum girl Maisie Robinson. Micky Miranda uses blackmail and murder to advance his family and threatens the whole British economy.
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