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It is the year 1899. It is three months since the events of The properties of Mercury. Captain Wentworth in mourning for his wife is lifted from his stupor by two letters received; one from the admiralty and one from an old school friend and midshipman, Hugh Abercrombie. In Abercrombie’s letter is an invitation to dinner to discuss a mysterious parchment attached to the letter containing a cipher in Chinese. At the admiralty, Wentworth is asked by his superiors to act as a liaison between themselves and the innovative, wealthy inventor, Frederick Devereux. Devereux is using his wealth and machinery to assist a Navy operation, attempting to refloat a sunken auxiliary ship off the coat of Kent. Wentworth travels to Kent where he and Devereux discover it’s not a colliery vessel but a state -of-the-art submarine being trialed for the Japanese navy. The Sub has been saboatged and both Wentworth & Devereux believe this to be the case as the cipher’s scrip is treated with phosphorous. Wentworth & Devereux are drawn into a murder, an international crisis and the threat to the Empires of Europe from an anarchist known as Deschamps.