A first novel, marked by successful capture of the feel of the Middle East, is marred by its failure to come up to the standard set by such books as South Wind or Passage to India. There's a moody impersonality in the view of Winter, recovering physically from hyphoid, but still blocked from normal outlook by the death of his wife in childbirth. He is thrown into close quarters with other Europeans, stationed at the desert oil field of Rasuka,- the Fords, Cators, the doctor, Plunkett, Nellie Leader, all with varying degrees of absorption in hobbies, obsessions, etc. Then there is Rider, who has disappeared into the desert and provides Winter with speculation. When embroilment in l'affaire Hebechi gives him an excuse to hunt him, Winter, too, seeks the desert, and there finds freedom from his involuntary isolation and returns. Despite failure on some scores, bisarre characters that are not convincing, this proves the author can write vividly, distinctively, particularly about conditions and setting.