Set in 19th century London, Jack Maggs is a reworking of the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations . The story centres around Jack Maggs (the equivalent of Magwitch) and his quest to meet his 'son' Henry Phipps (the equivalent of Pip), who has mysteriously disappeared, having closed up his house and dismissed his household.
Maggs becomes involved as a servant in the household of Phipps's neighbour, Percy Buckle, as he attempts to wait out Phipps or find him in the streets of London. He eventually cuts a deal with the young and broke up-and-coming novelist Tobias Oates (a thinly disguised Charles Dickens) that he hopes will lead him to Phipps. Oates, however, has other plans, as he finds in Maggs a character from whom to draw much needed inspiration for a forthcoming novel which he desperately needs to produce.