John and Ezra Girdlestone, father and son, run a British merchant company trading to the African coast with several sailing ships, all dangerously ill-maintained. Their small office is in London, their business is quite personally run, and the firm and its owners are well respected in the City by the 1870s. John Girdlestone is deeply and ostentatiously religious, to the cynical amazement of his son. The senior Girdlestone also is the tightly-controlling guardian of an heiress not quite of age, Kate Harston. This young lady is a cousin of Tom Dimsdale, college-age son of a physician. The story is filled with a fun, varied cast. Besides John, Ezra, and Kate, there’s Captain Miggs, Major Tobias Clutterbuck, and the Dimsdale family. These families and their impingement are at the center of A. Conan Doyle’s psychological-adventure novel The Firm of Girdlestone.