The interminable case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce has gone on for so long that it has become a subject of mirth in legal circles and a source of great profit to those professionally engaged in it. Held in its inexorable grip – along with a diverse cross section of mid-Victorian society, from baronets to crossing-sweepers – are two wards of court, Ada Clare and Richard Carstone, who, along with the selfless Esther Summerson, are taken in by the kindly philanthropist John Jarndyce, owner of the eponymous Bleak House. But as the legal machinery grinds mercilessly on, the quixotic but feckless Richard, determined to resolve the lawsuit once and for all, seems doomed to be crushed under its weight, while Esther uncovers a shocking mystery concerning her own past. Elsewhere, others are driven to ever more heinous acts, including blackmail – and even murder. Part panoramic social satire and – with the introduction of the indefatigable police investigator Mr Bucket – part prototype of the detective genre, this dark, complex and intricately plotted book is considered by many to be both Dickens’s greatest work and the finest novel of the Victorian age.