Two innocent young orphans are the potential heirs to a fortune. Their fates are snarled in a monumental legal battle known as Jarndyce and Jarndyce. Another orphan, Esther Summerson, has mysterious parentage that proves to be intertwined with the fate of the Jarndyce wards and the aloof Lady Dedlock. Lady Dedlock faces the revelation of her dark past once Mr. Tulkinghorn catches wind of it. The icily beautiful Esther's background also comes to light after the murder of a strange man. The story winds through the legal system to heartbreaking domestic drama to a murder investigation to near-Gothic horror.