The novel takes place in an historic canal town called Aubern. It is set primarily in our present, with short sections in the Victorian period, the 1940s, and very briefly in the Jurassic period. Our hero is 12-year-old Evie Stone. Evie is the keeper of a twee antique metronome, which turns out to be a time machine. But the device is not what it seems. Far from being a dream come true, the metronome has a will of its own and cannot be trusted. It pitches Evie into increasingly dangerous situations, a pattern which culminates in the climax of the book.
As well as being introduced to Evie, we meet her friends:
- Emma Gardner, a proud and street-smart girl in whose shadow Evie lives
- Arthur Patch, the brains of the group, who devises the name ‘Time Unravellers’ and a list of 86 rules to govern their time travel capers
- Sammy Tickle, who lends his dry humour when it’s most needed and least expected (and vice versa)
We also meet:
- Harley McCool, the school’s modern day equivalent of Arthur Fonzerelli
- Craig Campbell, the school’s equivalent of Flashman
Evie witnesses Craig Campbell bullying Raven, a new girl at the school. Evie is plagued by her inability to intercede. The book chronicles the events which lead to Evie finding the courage to go back and stand up to Craig Campbell, and to save Raven. In the course of her journey, Evie meets the mysterious Elmley and discovers the the time machine has a complicated history of its own. Together, Evie and her friends must ready themselves for a showdown with The Company – a shadowy organisation hellbent on acquiring the time machine at any cost.