Sarah Brandt, a midwife in turn-of-the-century New York City; has seen more than her share of joy and sorrow, birth and death. Now she will see for the first time how the squalor of the streets can breed madness and murder . . .
The Prodigal Son Mission on Mulberry Bend stands as a refuge for girls who otherwise would have to live by selling the only thing they have of value -- themselves. The work being done there so impresses Sarah that she volunteers to help out however she can -- with clothes, with medical assistance, with the organization of a benefit dinner. And when one of the girls is found dead and refused burial because of her former life, Sarah's passion for justice is aroused.
Reluctantly, Sergeant Frank Malloy agrees to look into the death, if only to keep Sarah from endangering herself by pursuing the matter. But Sarah cannot be kept out of the investigation -- and just as Malloy feared, her attempts to find the cause of the unfortunate girl's death in the circumstances of her life put her in deadly danger -- from an unexpected source . . .