In the late 18th century, two newlyweds move into the stately mansion of husband Charles Fengriffen. The bride, Catherine, falls victim to a curse placed by a wronged servant on the Fengriffen family and all its descendants.
Nick is a writer in New York when he gets posted to a bureau in Greece. He has waited 30 years for this. He wants to know why his mother was killed in the civil war years earlier. In a parallel plot line we see Nick as a young boy and his family as they struggle to survive in the occupied Greek hillside. The plot lines converge as Nick's investigations bring him closer to the answers.
A young solicitor, John Hector McFarlane, seeks Holmes's help after retired builder Jonas Oldacre dies in a fire. McFarlane, who benefits from Oldacre's will, is suspected of murder and asks Holmes to clear his name. Holmes looks for another motive and another killer, and dresses up as a tramp to get the information he needs about the Oldacre household. The surprising answer he finds is that Oldacre is not exactly dead.