What a delightful late Victorian story, from a gently deft writer! Sophie Haversham is lady of quality, even though she lives in genteel poverty with her aunt Violet. Since her uncle's death, Aunt Violet has turned her Mayfair home into a boarding house. Sophie helps with the borders, spends her time in the gardens and in the observatory growing orchids. She is happy with her life, though it is not the life her mother hoped for. Only, Sophie is plagued with visions. Sometimes they come in her dreams, leaving her to wake up shaking, knowing something very horrid will happen; sometimes they seize her while she is up and about causing her to faint and suffer a lingering headache. When she awakens from one of her dreams, where she saw a man dead and bleeding in the park, she knows she just cannot ignore it, so she goes to Scotland Yard with hopes of preventing it.
It's Mick Dunbar's birthday. One of the best roving inspectors of the Yard, he is not facing his birthday with much joy. First, looking in to the mirror he decides to shave his mustache, hoping to hide he is not getting old - after all, thirty-six is NOT old, or so he kept telling himself and everyone at the yard. He arrived to find his office and been moved, while it's being painted, leaving him in the middle of the traffic of the yard. So, he hears the pretty but slightly disheveled young woman trying to report a murder.
When Sophia spies Mick sitting there, she knows he's the man she sees dead in her vision. She describes the park that it is at night, below the statue of Robbie Burns. But she cannot convince Mick the threat is real; he believes it's another birthday joke being played upon him. Later, after he leaves the pub and crosses the park to get to his boarding house, he discovers he is passing right by the statue of Burns. Being alerted, he catches shadows moving in time to fall to the ground to keep from being shot.
Now Mick is convinced Sophia is a nut shooting at him, or she knew someone was going to shoot at him and is trying to protect this person, so Mick is coming after her. He investigates Sophia and those connected to her, and eventually takes a room in Violets Mayfair home. Nothing Sophia tells him changes his mind, so he sets about to find out what she is hiding.
Sophie is telling the truth about her vision, but there are other secrets she is hiding. Their butler was a former criminal. Aunt Violet is "overly fond" of other people's jewellery - not a thief, but a kleptomaniac. Her sister Charlotte is married to a lawyer, who does not love his wife, is stealing from his clients, and keeps a blonde mistress on the side! Just before Mick moves in, Sophie discovers Violet has "borrowed" her cousin's diamond and emerald necklace. When Mick searches the house, and finds it hidden in Sophie's underwear draw, he arrests her.
As Sophie tries to convince Mick he's still in danger, they both are drawn into an affair. Sophie and Mick are delightful characters, and Gurhke bring the end of the 1800's alive. The whole book is just such a wonderful read! I am off to order my Gurhke books!