When ten-year-old orphan Noel Bostock is evacuated from London to escape the Blitz, he ends up living in St. Albans with Vera Sedge, who at thirty-six is drowning in debts and dependents. Always desperate for money, she's unscrupulous about how she gets it.
Noel's mourning his godmother, Mattie, a former suffragette. Brought up to share her disdain for authority and eclectic approach to education, he has little in common with other children and even less with Vee, who hurtles impulsively from one self-made crisis to the next. The war's thrown up new opportunities for making money, but what Vee needs (and what she's never had) is a cool head and the ability to make a plan.
On her own, she's a disaster. With Noel, she's a part of a team. Together they cook up an idea. Criss-crossing the bombed suburbs of London, Vee starts to make a profit and Noel begins to regain his interest in life.
But there are plenty of other people making money out of the war, and some of them are dangerous. Noel may have been moved to safety, but he isn't actually safe at all.