A young solicitor, John Hector McFarlane, seeks Holmes's help after retired builder Jonas Oldacre dies in a fire. McFarlane, who benefits from Oldacre's will, is suspected of murder and asks Holmes to clear his name. Holmes looks for another motive and another killer, and dresses up as a tramp to get the information he needs about the Oldacre household. The surprising answer he finds is that Oldacre is not exactly dead.
The Mazarin Stone, a famous jewel, acts as a magnet for crime. Holmes investigates the latest and perhaps most curious episode in its adventures.