A young Doctor and his assistant attempt to empower a young woman with the ability to see the hidden world of Pagan gods. The Doctor surgically removes the part of her brain that blocks the human mind from seeing this forbidden world, and the woman spirals into a delirious state, unable to provide any useful account of what she has experienced. Many years later, London is in the grips of a rash of suicides by gentlemen of all social standings. The doctor and his friend begin to unravel clues given by testimony and story from a host of characters and sources. They discover a common thread; all the men had relations with a strange but beautiful woman who had recently taken residence in London. They know this stranger is too young to be the woman of their experiment so many years ago, but can not shake the notion of some connection.
Machen has a way of skirting around the tale and slowly spiraling inward, revealing what is at the center, rather than going straight ahead into the crux of the tale. Most of his stories are this combination of mystery and horror, quite often leaving you at the very edge of an abyss, to imagine the story’s outcome, or the fate of the characters. For those not familiar with Machen’s work, this would be the best tale to begin with, as it sets the tone and style of all of his works and gives you an understanding of the way he reveals his dark visions.