When her mother dies, 18-year-old Kate and her father bury her in a place beloved of her childhood and go to live in a cottage close by. Kate meets a one-eyed vagabond who tells her the Elizabethan history of the neighbouring great house: of a massacre in the name of religion, of imprisonment, rape, torture and murder. It is a tale that comes alive in the telling as its victims rise up in vengeance to engulf Kate and all around her. Kate finds herself the unwilling medium through which they will have their revenge upon the descendants of the perpetrators of their suffering. This is the tale of the haunting, in modern times, of a girl by a ghost exactly resembling her own dead mother. Encountering this ghost imprisoned in the East wing of the Great House, a wing long-since rebuilt after a fire in Elizabethan times, Kate is gradually compelled to unravel the terrible story of this place. Through the Tales of Shabby Tattler, that one-eyed vagabond whose power of description seems to bring to life those he depicts, Kate is drawn into a past in which she finds herself a living victim, trapped by circumstance and helpless to alter the terrifying unfolding of events. It is the first in a trilogy of tales through which, in a 'Danse Macabre' moves the dark enigmatic figure of the 'Shabby Tattler', the cunning man. Tale-teller and myth-maker is he, or puppet-master of these strange plays, conjuring appearances and disappearances, scenes of tragedy and comedy: manipulator of souls with strings invisible? 'The Toadman' forms the second part and 'Reprise' the third. Based upon a Greek legend, its Elizabethan setting is only loosely historical inasmuch as its purpose is far from attempting to depict the life of that era.