When Penny Wintercraft-Hawkes gets a call from her older brother Stephen, she's delighted to learn that he and his wife Tamsin have returned from Hong Kong, and are finally planning to build their dream house, a reproduction Elizabethan manor, on their London riverside property. Since Penny's longtime companion, traditional musician Ringan Laine, is an expert on period architecture, he signs on as an adviser to the construction crew.
Shortly after the project begins, however, they learn that the site is supposedly haunted by a bomb disposal officer, killed on the site in 1948. Their joint fear - that Penny's sensitivity to the unseen world will be triggered somehow by song - while still present, is tempered by the knowledge that this ghost, at least, has no connection to music.
But this time, it's Ringan himself who begins to hear and see things he can't explain: A ghostly pack of hounds, baying and on the hunt. Voices no one else can hear. A horrifying vision, shared by Penny, of a red-haired girl named Margaret, drowning her sister in the Thames. None of this, however, seems to connect to the site's resident ghost.
More distubingly, Ringan is seeing through the eyes of a long-ago musician by the name of Pietro Bendone, Ringan and Penny finally realize that the visions they're experiencing are from a far more distant time. And if the truth isn't uncovered, Ringan may find himself caught in the body – and sharing the fate – of a man who died a terrible death four centuries earlier.
Their desperate search leads Penny and Ringan on a historical hunt, to a royal wedding nearly five centuries ago, to murder and terrible retribution, to the Bodleian library in Oxford, and, in the end, to hidden letters describing a terrible secret from the Royal Court of Henry VIII.