London, 1826: Gabriel Swift has left behind his father's failures to study with Edwin Poll, the greatest of the city's anatomists. But instead he finds himself drawn to his master's nemesis, Lucan, the most powerful of the city's resurrectionists and ruler of its trade in stolen bodies. Gabriel descends into London's underworld, a place where everything and everyone is for sale, and where the taking of a life is easier than it might seem. Ten years later, another man teaches art in the penal colony of New South Wales, his spare time spent trapping and painting birds. But as becomes clear when he falls in love with one of his pupils, no one may escape their past forever, and the worst prisons are often those we make for ourselves.