1838 and under the new Poor Law the destitute are now housed in union workhouses. Two men unknown to each other seek to uncover the suspected mistreatment of inmates in a small Suffolk workhouse. Edgar Lawes is a local landowner and justice of the peace; Ambrose Hudson a London journalist. Establishing himself on the board Lawes is immediately disturbed by the inhumanity he finds. Hudson becomes an inmate and covertly keeps a journal of conditions and events which follow chronologically those of Edgar Lawes. The complacency of the owners is shattered by a suicide, closely followed by the brutal murder of a workhouse official. In the wake of these two deaths unlikely friendships are forged and lives are changed, but will it be for the better?