It all begins when film researcher Graham Nolan finds a copy of Tower of Fear, a 1938 Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi film that was presumed to be lost. He invites Sandy Allen, a film editor, to a private screening in his apartment. But before she can watch the long-lost film, Sandy discovers that Graham has jumped to his death from a tall building. Could it be a suicide, or did some sort of evil force cause Graham to jump?
Tower of Fear was never released to the public, and there are stories of strange events befalling the cast and crew during its production. Prompted by the death of her friend and these weird rumors, Sandy is determined to get to the bottom of whatever is going on. Through the course of the book, Sandy ends up tracking down the elderly actors who appeared in the film. Some of them refuse to talk to her at all. The ones that are willing to answer her questions all seem to have negative memories of their time on the set of Tower of Fear.
Sandy soon starts to experience some strange things herself. One day she comes home to find both of her cats dead. They don't show any signs of injury, so she suspects someone has been tampering with their food. At night, she hears scratching sounds right outside her door, even when there is no one there. While driving all over England, she sees strange, black, dog-like creatures who scurry through the dirt at unnatural speeds. Her search eventually leads her to a small town named Redfield, home of the Staff o' Life bread corporation. On the surface, Redfield appears to be a quaint little village, but Sandy soon begins to suspect that something evil is lurking beneath the town's picturesque exterior.
This book provides examples of the following:
- Being Watched: Ever since hearing about Tower of Fear, Sandy can't shake the feeling that someone or something sinister is following her.
- Cassandra Truth: Tower of Fear is supposed to expose the evil goings-on in a real English town, but no one seems to realize this.
- Evil Tower of Ominousness: The whole book revolves around an old unreleased film that centers around this trope.
- Fake Period Excuse: not played completely straight as Sandy really is on her period when she uses it as an excuse to get away from the three unsettling women who have followed her to the hotel.
- Fertile Blood: One of the more important tropes in the book. For centuries, the Redfields have been fertilizing their fields with human blood to produce the famously delicious Staff o' Life bread. See also Bloody Horror
- Fiction As Coverup: It is hinted that the events in the Tower of Fear film may have been based on real events.
- It's Going Down: The Tower and Redfield Manor are both destroyed at the end. Lord Redfield allows himself, his father, and his son to die in the fire to end the family bloodline, putting an end to the human sacrifices that have been a Redfield tradition for hundreds of years.
- Lord Country: The Redfield family share their name with the land they rule.
- Meaningful Name: Redfield, referring to the blood that fertilizes their fields.
- Moral Guardians: When Sandy is looking through the newspaper archives, she finds some old writings from the 1930's denouncing Tower of Fear for corrupting the morals of Britain's youth.
- No Periods, Period: Averted when Sandy gets hers shortly before arriving in Redfield.
- Regularly Scheduled Evil: Someone seems to die a violent death in Redfield once every 50 years.
- Scary Scarecrows: Sandy gets an eerie feeling from the scarecrows in Redfield, even suspecting that they are following her.
- Sinister Scraping Sound: Sandy hears scratching noises outside her door at night, both at home and at the Redfield motel. See also Things That Go "Bump" in the Night.
- Town with a Dark Secret - It becomes increasingly obvious that the charming appearance of Redfield is hiding some kind of horror.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Lord Redfield seems to be unaware of the horror that he is allowing to occur in the town that bears his surname.
- Was Once a Man: At the very end, it is implied that after members of the Redfield family die, they turn into bizarre animals hell bent on silencing anyone who tries to reveal the town's secret.