Eel Marsh House stands tall, gaunt and isolated, surveying the endless flat saltmarshes beyond the Nine Lives Causeway, somewhere on England’s bleak East Coast. Here Mrs Alice Drablow lived – and died – alone. Young Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor, is ordered by his firm’s senior partner to travel up from London to attend her funeral and then sort out all her papers. His task is a lonely one, and at first Kipps is quite unaware of the tragic secrets which lie behind the house’s shuttered windows. He only has a terrible sense of unease. And then, he glimpses a young woman with a wasted face, dressed all in black, at the back of the church during Mrs Drablow’s funeral, and later, in the graveyard to one side of Eel Marsh House. Who is she? Why is she there? He asks questions, but the locals not only cannot or will not give him answers – they refuse to talk about the woman in black, or even to acknowledge her existence, at all. So, Arthur Kipps has to wait until he sees her again, and she slowly reveals her identity to him – and her terrible purpose.