Young orphan Esther Summerson is brought to the High Court of Chancery, where she is thrown together with two wards of the court, Richard Carstone and Ada Clare. Both are caught up in the infamous suit of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, which brings nothing but ruin and despair to all it touches. Esther, Richard and Ada are sent to live at Bleak House, where they receive a friendly welcome from their rich guardian John Jarndyce.
Despite his grim discovery, Tulkinghorn remains undeterred from his ruthless inquiry into Lady Dedlock's past. A young crossing sweeper, Jo, may hold a key to the mystery. Krook discovers evidence in Nemo's room which could provide a crucial clue. Richard and Ada plan their engagement, but receive an unexpected setback. And as Richard begins a career in medicine, Esther meets an attractive young doctor called Allan Woodcourt.
As Tulkinghorn edges closer to the truth, Lady Dedlock puts her reputation at risk when she pays an undercover visit to Nemo's former haunts. John Jarndyce finds himself increasingly attracted to Esther, but Richard makes an announcement which causes him dismay. And Woodcourt has news that comes as a terrible blow to Esther.
A chance encounter in the country raises intriguing questions for Esther and Lady Dedlock. Legal clerk Guppy, still besotted with Esther, discovers surprising new information about her past and decides to dig deeper still. And Lady Dedlock's secret is far from safe, as Tulkinghorn stumbles across a lead which could destroy her reputation forever.
Richard's inability to settle causes a rift with John Jarndyce, much to Ada's dismay. Tulkinghorn finally unearths the possible identity of the mysterious Nemo. Nemo's old friend Sergeant George has the evidence he needs to prove it and Tulkinghorn will stop at nothing to force George to hand it over. But George has even more problems when Gridley turns up on his doorstep, on the run from the law and infected with the fever.
George's future is put at risk as Tulkinghorn uses the evil moneylender Smallweed to pile on the pressure. Guppy makes a discovery about Esther which shocks Lady Dedlock to the core. Esther and Jarndyce take in Jo the crossing sweeper, who is seriously ill and on the run from Tulkinghorn's men. But their kindness produces an unexpected result.
Esther is shattered by Lady Dedlock's revelation. Richard's obsession with the Jarndyce case has grown to worrying proportions. Guppy puts himself at risk when he gets in the way of Tulkinghorn's enquiries. And Tulkinghorn at last has cast iron proof of Lady Dedlock's guilt, and issues her with a terrible ultimatum.
Richard is in dire straits but Ada and Esther may be too late to help him. An unexpected meeting with Woodcourt raises uncomfortable questions for Esther. Jo the crossing sweeper is critically ill, and despite Woodcourt's best attempts it is a matter of life and death. Tulkinghorn discovers Lady Dedlock's defiance with disastrous consequences.
Richard's obsession with Chancery has left him desperately ill. Ada is pregnant but worries Richard will not live to see the child. When Woodcourt proposes marriage, Esther is torn between her love for him and her commitment to Jarndyce. The impossible finally happens - a result in Chancery - but it's one that will astound everybody.