When twelve-year-old Ada Cooper’s elder sister, Connie, goes mysteriously missing overnight, Ada and her younger brother, Sam, are forced to fend for themselves until they find her again. Connie Cooper has taken charge of the children since their parents both passed away from consumption a few months previously.
Ada and Sam’s only allies are Mrs Adler and her son, Jakob, who live in the same dilapidated apartment building in rooms across the landing from them. Up until now, Connie’s job at the match factory is the only thing that’s kept the family together but now the children are forced to fend for themselves when the rent man, Mr Winterbourne, demands his money, threatening them with internment at the workhouse for non payment. Forced to flee from the man who attacks her when she tries to prevent him from taking her brother, Ada is discovered by Maggie Donovan, a salt of the earth character who lives in a ramshackle house beneath the railway arches. The Donovans are a coster mongering family who help Ada and her brother by providing them with food and shelter, and also set Ada up with a barrow of her own to sell fruit and veg on the streets by day and flowers outside the theatres by night.
As all this is going on, in the background is the threat of an evil stalker of lone females known as “Jack the Ripper” who eviscerates his victims in the most despicable fashion during what would later be dubbed by the press as “The Autumn of Terror”.
Will Ada and Sam ever reunite with their sister, Connie? And will they both be able to survive the savage streets? Or will Ada’s dream of one day owning her own flower shop turn into a nightmare for her?