Henry Rathbone arrives to spend Christmas at the Dreghorn family manor house near Ullswater. He is greeted by the news that the master of the house, Judah Dreghorn has slipped while crossing a stream in the grounds of the estate in the middle of the ...
night, and drowned. Not only this, but Ashton Gower, recently released from prison, is slandering Judah's name, claiming that his family rightfully owns the estate and that the forged deeds for which he was imprisoned were in fact genuine. To Rathbone and the two remaining Dreghorn brothers, also returning to the Lakes for Christmas, Judah's mysterious death and Gower's outrageous claims seem inextricably linked.