London, 1859. Great exhibitions. Foreign conquests. Underground trains. The era of Victorian marvels is also the time of the Great Stink. Beneath the respectable surface, a multitude of ills need flushing out. When a man is killed in a hydraulic burst, novice detective Campbell Lawless stumbles on to the trail of Berwick Skelton: this elusive activist rose from humble beginnings to cross swords with London’s illuminati, before vanishing, heartbroken, amid presages of disaster. The Worms, a gang of urchins, help Lawless investigate the ‘Skeleton Thefts’ mystifying society, revealing to him the disillusion that lurks beneath the filthy cobblestones.
Berwick’s trail leads to music hall hoofers, industrial sabotage and royal scandal. Lawless peels away veneers of secrecy to convince the powers-that-be of Berwick’s revolutionary plans. Can he track down the underworld mastermind before he wreaks vengeance on those who ride roughshod over his people?