London 1811. To protect the dubious reputations of both himself and a courtesan, the head of a disreputable family, worldly Lord Roderick Davenant, takes home and consigns to the care of his servants Addy, a climbing boy ( sweep’s apprentice) who accidentally falls down the bedroom chimney during a clandestine tryst.
Davenant’s groom, Henry, discovers the orphan Addy is no ordinary climbing boy; he behaves like a gentleman, is literate, speaks fluent French, and says he lives in a “castle” with is grandfather. Henry is sure Addy is the victim of “a jacketing concern,” underworld slang for the usurpation of someone from his wealth. At first skeptical about this, Davenant changes his mind when he learns Addy knows Latin.
Ever one for sport, Davenant accepts a wager to find Addy’s family from a young man with a grudge against him. From the beginning, Davenant’s quest is beset by murder and danger. Someone seems to know his every move. Why does a man in buckled shoes follow him? A pedlar watch his house? A sinister duke so interested in Addy? Who is it that wants Addy dead?
Aided by a cheeky climbing boy, Bodger; an attractive Quaker heiress and a brothel bawd, Davenant’s search takes him from Mayfair to London’s underworld, from Liverpool to Sussex smuggling haunts until he discovers that the answers he seeks are much closer to him than he realized.