This book tells the stories of three people whose lives intersect during the 1800s. Hannah is working at the hotel where her father was a stonemason. She is supporting her family ever since her father had a stroke but they are barely able to survive. Her luck appears to change when she becomes the personal assistant for an eccentric visitor to the hotel, Madame Pomeroy. Hannah also overhears the nasty woman who is in charge of all the hotel maids making plans to find a secret treasure left by a former hotel visitor. Hannah wants to find the treasure before anyone else in order to help treat her father and save her family.
Frederick is an orphan who has been taken in by a clockmaker. Frederick's dream is to become a clockmaker himself at an early age. He has been working on an automated man and has the entire body made but doesn't know how to go about making a head that will control all the rest. When he learns that an historical clockmaker named Mangus made such an automaton in the past Frederick is determined to find that head and learn its secrets.
Giuseppe works the streets each day playing his violin for spare change. All of the money he makes has to be given to Stephano, the man who brought him to America and keeps him and other boys as his slaves. If Stephano is unhappy with the amount of money brought in any day, the boy has to spend the night in a hole filled with rats, or worse. Giuseppe dreams of raising enough money to pay for a ticket back home to Italy and when he finds a beautiful green violin after a shipwreck it seems like he might be able to play well enough to do just that.
These three teens each have a dream and when they meet accidentally they find that they might be able to help each other. This is an intricate book but the story keeps moving along with several surprises.