This comprehensive novel consists of three subplots which interlink to form the whole and supply a trio of targets at which Trollope aims his proselytising pen. The first treats on the courtship of a woman by a man whom she does not love and with whom she is not compatible. Mary Lowther will not accept such a marriage of dishonesty. The second deals with the plight of a young woman who has fallen prey to the wiles of an evil seducer and subsequently adopts a life of prostitution.
Sir Richard Hannay introduces this last adventure involving his old friends.
John Blenkiron discovers that a ruthless industrialist is plotting to destabilise America and cause global turmoil. Although Bavarian born, Castor plans to dominate the world from Olifa, a small country in Latin America. Hannay realises he is now too old for the job of thwarting these evil designs and enlists the aid of his old friend Sandy Arbuthnot, now Lord Clanroyden.
This book was the inspiration for an enormous achievement. The Peoples Palace for the entertainment and instruction of the working class was opened in the East End in 1887, five years after the book was published. It had changed peoples lives and was an incredible support for those who had previously no art gallery, theatre, library, concert hall or gymnasium.