In the final year of the nineteenth century, Peter Winceworth is toiling away for the multi-volume Swansby’s New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. He feels compelled to exercise artistic freedom, and begins inserting unauthorised, fictitious entries into the dictionary.
In the present day, Mallory is tasked with uncovering these mountweazels as the text of the dictionary is digitised for modern readers. Through their definitions she finds she has access to their creator’s motivations, hopes and desires. More pressingly, she’s also fielding daily threatening anonymous phone calls. As their two narratives combine, Winceworth and Mallory must discover how to negotiate the complexities of an often nonsensical, untrustworthy, hoax-strewn and undefinable life.