Joshua Pitt, enquiry agent in London England of 1896, has just returned from Ireland when he receives two telegrams, both from Kendal England. One is from a friend and distant relative asking for advice, and the other from a wealthy previous client who is in mortal danger from a man whose brother he killed some twenty years before. The threat will be carried out in twenty six days unless Pitt can track down and deal with the potential killer, or possibly killers. Pitt, an inveterate pipe smoker, takes a part time position in a tobacco shop in Kendal, hoping to gain information but it soon proves fruitless as the daughter of the wealthy landowner is kidnapped.
In the midst of the investigation, Pitt also rekindles a relationship with a nursing sister he met on a previous case but instead of the relationship being a complication, it is beneficial, and the door to a new life may be opening for him.