It is 1817 and Charles Corday, a portrait painter, has only seven days to live. He has been found guilty of murdering a Countess whom he was in the process of painting. He had been sentenced to hang, and political pressures make it expedient for the Home Office to confirm his guilt. The man appointed to investigate is Rider Sandman, whose qualifications for the job are non-existent and who is currently down on his luck. But Sandman's investigations reveal much that does not fit the verdict, and too many people determined to halt his activities.