Young historian Melvina Kirksley is hired by an all-female publishing company to discover who wrote The Scarlet Rider, Or, A Mystery of the Gold-Diggings. The novel had originally been serialized anonymously in an 1860s newspaper. As she gets closer to the heart of the mystery, she feels the past come alive and begins to question her own identity, both now... and then.
Colin Steel writes in 2001: 'Melvina becomes increasingly estranged from her medical student boyfriend (a not-quite-convincing relationship) and her best friends, but new relationships are formed with a publisher, genealogists and a descendant of one of the real-life Victorian characters. On a number of levels Sussex peels away the past to reveal its links to the present. As the darker forces of Melvina's "possession" become apparent, the innocent academic research becomes a matter of life and death' (SF Commentary No 77, p.55).