Using three strong protagonists and one femme fatale, Gallagher has crafted a late 19th- to early 20th-century tale that is both eerie and gothic. Much of the action set in the theater district from the Midlands, England, to Philadelphia and finally the American South, an incredible journey of obsession and betrayal taxes the belief of a dedicated man and draws him into the depths of human depravity.
Tom Sayers, a renowned former boxer who has taken his success to the stage, now manages a small company that features the beautiful and innocent Louise Parker as a songstress. Although Louise is aware of Tomís admiration, she has her eye on a handsome performer who is somewhat suspect in his attentions.
Moving from place to place, the actors are dogged by a number of suspicious murders that seem to match the dates of appearances. When a Pinkerton man approaches Sayers with questions, his murder near the theater points the finger of guilt directly at the former boxer. After his arrest, Sayers escapes, determined to solve the mystery but also concerned with protecting Louise from harm, especially if the killer is hiding within the group of players.
On the run, Sayers is caught in a conundrum, desperate to save Louise but needing to remain free. Meanwhile, another Pinkerton tracks the moves of the suspect, Inspector Sebastian Becker resolute in his determination to bring Sayers to justice.
In dire straits after living on the streets and barely avoiding capture, Sayers turns to the one acquaintance who might offer a brief respite: Bram Stoker, managing a more reputable theater troupe. Stoker, though he owes nothing to Sayers, believes in the manís innocence and offers a change of clothing and some direction on Sayerís quest. It is also through Stoker that Tom is introduced to the more sinister possibilities behind the continuing murders and the dark power of an unspeakable evil.
Unwilling to believe the worst, Tom pursues Louise to America, where his journey reveals even more disturbing results. By this time, Becker has moved to the United States as well, and the two men meet under bizarre circumstances, the final act of the plot unfurling amid betrayal, false hopes and Tomís acceptance of the ultimate sacrifice.
This gothic mystery is rich with the ambiance of the theater district, the corridors of corruption that attend a class of people who prefer danger to security and the impending sense of evil that permeates everywhere that Sayers follows the woman of his dreams. His passion unremitting yet never reciprocated, Tom acknowledges the futility of his dreams but remains undaunted to the bitter end, when once more he requests a favor from Bram Stoker.
Otherworldly and decadent, this is a netherworld of strange desires and human depravity, a world where Sayers wanders fearlessly, Stoker observes with interest, and Sebastian Becker treads warily, the three fates inextricably entwined and devastating.