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Barnabas Tew is a private detective struggling to survive in his trade in Victorian London. Fearing that he is not as clever as he had hoped to be, he is plagued by a lack of confidence brought on in no small part by his failure to prevent the untimely deaths of several of his clients.
Matters only get worse when Anubis, the Egyptian God of the Dead, is referred to Barnabas by a former client (who perished in a terribly unfortunate incident which was almost certainly not Barnabas’ fault). Anubis sends for Barnabas (in a most uncivilized manner) and tells him that the scarab beetle in charge of rolling the sun across the sky every day has been kidnapped, and perhaps dismembered entirely.
The Land of the Dead is in chaos, which will soon spill over into the Land of the Living if Barnabas – together with his trusty assistant, Wilfred – cannot set matters to right. Pulled from his predictable (if unremarkable) life in Marylebone, Barnabas must match his wits against the capricious and dangerous Egyptian gods in order to unravel the mystery of the missing beetle and thereby save the world.