Benjamin Wolf, a highly intelligent and inscrutable man with an intense sense of compassion for the vulnerable and threatened, and an unusual kind of illusionist, is in need of a respite. He sets out on a walking holiday in the Lake District and after a somewhat disconcerting ramble he arrives at Monk's Hall, the home of an old friend, Sebastian Monk, the Earl of Uppington on the Downs, for a weekend retreat. The Earl has invited an eclectic party of contentious individuals including Duchess Cassandra of Camelot; international real estate mogul, Ulysses Upman; and Doctor of Philosophy, Professor I. M. Boring. Chrystal D. Canter, daughter of the matriarch of one of the oldest Cognac producing families in Europe was also invited but mysteriously goes missing.
It becomes apparent to Ben that there is an undercurrent of secrets, lies and deception but there is something else, something ethereal and evil in the atmosphere. Ben's foreboding becomes manifest the following morning when the lifeless body of the Earl is discovered.