It is a time of steam technology, scientific innovation and quietly simmering political tension. Having lost her husband to the dangerous life of an adventurer and the hazards of hot air balloon travel and murderous mercenaries, Astrid Darby has found herself alone in the world, aside from her motley assortment of eccentric associates, mad scientists, cheeky Ministry of Defence agents, and her keen, clever young cousin, Alexander Knightly. Now an esteemed and erudite adventurer herself, Astrid is, once again, embroiled in a grand conspiracy, the scale and nature of which she has only begun to imagine. When Dr Sebastian Cross, one of England's most acclaimed physicists and inventors, is discovered missing along with the Eye of Ra, the doctor's revolutionary new directed energy weapon, the executives of Rake & Gage, premier defence contractors, enlist Astrid to locate the doctor and recover his apparatus. Despite Messrs Cole's and Thorne's certainty that the doctor and his assistant, Dr Joseph Ramsey, have absconded with the weapon and defected to a rival contractor, Astrid suspects something far more sinister is afoot. Her search for the Eye leads her into a world fraught with colourful characters, improbable death rays, flying airships, awkward wagon rides, uncouth wranglers, murderous mercenaries, perilous train trips, underground tunnels, ludicrous disguises, condescending Ministry of Defence agents, treacherous executives, malicious terrorists, and the destruction of a beloved national landmark.