Mix Cellini (which he pronounces with an ‘S’ rather than a ‘C’) is superstitious about the number thirteen and has always felt dogged by ill-luck. In St Blaise House where he lives, there are thirteen steps down to the landing below his rooms, which he keeps spick and span in marked contrast to the rest of the place. His landlady, Gwendolen Chawcer, was born there, and lives her life almost exclusively through her library, blind to the neglect and decay around her.
The Notting Hill neighbourhood has changed radically over the last fifty years, and 10 Rillington Place, where the notorious John Christie committed a series of foul murders, has been torn down. Mix is obsessed with the life of Christie and his small library is composed entirely of books on the subject. He has also developed a passion for a beautiful model who lives nearby – a woman who would not look at him twice.
Both landlady and lodger inhabit weird world of their own. But when reality intrudes into Mix’s life, a long pent-up violence explodes.