Deeply involved in London's wartime black market, gangland lawyer Mark Abrahams worries for his life. Operating on both sides of the law he is desperate for a way out. His chance comes during a daytime raid in 1943. Returning from the bank he finds his building blitzed and his staff buried under three floors of smoking rubble and with them his partner Richard Ellis. But who is to say who died, he or Ellis? With GBP15000 in his suitcase he sees his chance to flee from London with another man's identity. By the spring of 1944 the reborn Richard Ellis has become an established solicitor in a small port on the Cornish coast but it is the affairs of the local gentry that awakens his interest. Silas Trevelyan, a miserly recluse is sitting on a family fortune. His vast estate of property and watermills dominates the river valley down to Creakside Manor. Next in line for succession is Bill Ives. Widowed with a small child, he marries Rachel, a flighty conscript from London. To cut her out of his fortunes, Silas alters his will, leaving everything to Bill's daughter, Charlotte.
But when Bill is killed during the D-Day celebrations, Ellis realises that with some clever forgery, he can steer Silas' money his way. However, he underestimates both the Trevelyan cunning and the gutsy young Charlotte. Neither does he expect his past to catch up with him as it does when a schooner sails into the harbour in 1953. Its owner, U.S. naval officer Jack Lavelle is there to uncover the truth. Ellis, driven to murderous lengths to avoid disclosure, takes risk after risk to save his dream. But there is something else, triggered off by Ellis's own evil, that brings about the horrific ending none of them could have foreseen.