Howell says she was inspired to write the book after a visit to Moyse’s Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds, where she became interested in the collection of clocks that had belonged to a local collector, Frederic Gershom Parkington. She relocated the story to Cambridge, where she has previously lived and worked. Howell occasionally overwrites, but plots well, and it is impossible not to be hooked by the secret notes, stolen winding keys and drama when the clocks stop. Is it due to ghostly interference, a death or complicated familial jealousy? The denouement references the Edwardian beginnings of female emancipation (a woman scorned) and the lot of the poor in this rich city as Helena attempts to bring the family together again.