At the center of the story is Augustus Melmotte, a European-born city financier, whose origins are as mysterious as his business dealings. Trollope describes him as 'something in the city', but the "something" part is not always clear. Within weeks of arriving in London, he announces a new company and promises instant fortune to those who join him in this scheme. Melmotte is surrounded by a circle of decadent aristos, scheming widows and nouveau riche businessmen, all trying to get a piece of the financial pie. His disobedient daughter, Marie, is played by Shirley Henderson, while Cheryl Campbell, Matthew Macfadyen and Paloma Baeza bring to life the aristocratic but impoverished Carbury family.