A young woman named Helen Stoner consults the detective Sherlock Holmes about the suspicious death of her sister, Julia. One night, after conversing with her sister about her big day, she suddenly reappeared in her room, struggling to breathe, and died soon afterwards. Julia had been engaged to be married and had she lived would have received an annual 250 Pounds annuity from her late mother's income. Now Helen is engaged to be married. Holmes' investigation of the mother's estate reveals that its value has decreased significantly, and if both daughters had married, Dr. Roylott, Helen's ill-tempered and violent stepfather, would be left with very little, while the marriage of even one would be crippling. Therefore, the main suspicion falls on him.