Gower Street, London, 1882: Sidney Grice, London's most famous personal detective, is expecting a visitor. He drains his fifth pot of morning tea, and glances outside, where a young, plain woman picks her way between the piles of horse-dung towards his front door. Sidney Grice shudders. For heaven's sake - she is wearing brown shoes. March Middleton is Sidney Grice's ward, and she is determined to help him on his next case. Her guardian thinks women are too feeble for detective work, but when a grisly murder in the slums proves too puzzling for even Sidney Grice's encyclopaedic brain, March Middleton turns out to be rather useful after all
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Ms. March Middleton leaves her estate to take up residence with her guardian, Sidney Grice. Although Grice is a well-known private detective, his relationship with March's family is somewhat mysterious. Once she arrives, Grice's help is sought by a widow whose daughter has been murdered and whose son-in-law has been arrested. Although the woman insists he is innocent, she doesn't have the required fee and Grice refuses the case. March, however is touched by the woman's pleas and offers to pay for the investigation herself. As they seek clues throughout the East End, March becomes convinced of the man's innocence while Grice maintains the man is guilty.