On assignment in Vienna, photographer Ian Jarrett falls desperately in love with a woman he meets by chance, Marian Esguard. Back in England, he breaks up with his wife and goes to meet Marian at an agreed rendezvous. Marian fails to show.
Searching desperately for her, he stumbles on a Dorset churchyard full of the gravestones of dead Esguards. He also meets a psychotherapist, Daphne Sanger. She too is looking for someone: a former patient who has come to believe she is the reincarnation of Marion Esguard, who lived in Regency times and, it emerges, may have invented photography ten years before Fox Talbot. But if so, why is she unknown to history? And where is the woman he met in Vienna?
Jarrett sets out to unravel a mystery that may have its origins in the first half of the nineteenth century, in the midst of the magical beginnings of photography. He becomes entangled in a web of deception and deception.