When Noel Bostock - aged ten, no family - is evacuated from London to escape the Blitz, he ends up living in St Albans with Vera Sedge - thirty-six and drowning in debts and dependants. Always desperate for money, she's unscrupulous about how she gets it.
Noel is mourning his godmother, Mattie, a former suffragette. Brought up to share her disdain for authority and her 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 hatch a plan.
On her own, she's a disaster. With Noel, she's 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...