The steamy squalor of modern India and a twenty-year-old mystery surrounding a young woman's death provide the setting for this brilliantly deceptive story about a genteel old man, his sensual young bride, and his brooding son. Twenty years after they let it, Rupert and his father Philip, accompanied by Philip's young wife Kirsti and their chauffeur Rajiv, return to India to make peace with their past. The little troupe proceeds by car through the bleak industrial suburbs of town they no longer recognize, a tour whose ultimate stop will be a visit to the grave of Rupert's mother. The heat and dust, the poverty of the peasants, and the hostility of the merchants all create a feeling of oppression that heightens the sense of loss felt by father and son. But beneath the surface there is another source of tension among the group of travellers-the barely suppressed sexual attraction Rupert feels toward his father's wife, in counterpoint to his growing sense of betrayal as recollections of the past, and of the mother who died when he was so young, accumulate.
Through Rupert's point of view we see his father as frail, politely ineffectual, even a bit dotty-until the gradual revelations of the past merge with those of the present, and Philip reveals his own complex truth in the novel's surprising and powerful climax.