A dreary first novel, set in contemporary Pakistan, about the sufferings of a clerk and his family, and their ill-fated encounter with a fake holy man. Zahid is a 41-year-old accounts clerk--a nervous, ineffectual man, unable to handle his pretty, temperamental, younger wife, Jamila. A cloud of guilt hangs over their marriage. Their first two sons died young (a chill, and a traffic accident), and their third son is constantly sick; only their daughter Azra seems healthy and normal. Zahid moves his family into a house in a Karachi suburb; there are rumors that the house is cursed by bad luck, but it's a good deal, and, besides, Zahid likes it. It is Jamila who has misgivings, which seem justified when a friend of Zahid's, a communist textile worker on strike, is followed to the house by police and shot dead. But Zahid has somebody else on his mind--a mysterious yogi called the Shah Baba who has given Zahid medicine for his son and impressed him deeply with his spiritual powers. The yogi visits the house, the little boy's health improves, and Jamila becomes more accommodating. This is the lull before the final melodramatic storm, brought on when another friend of Zahid's, an unnamed narrator who has popped up from time to time with his own story, arrives with a suitcase stuffed with rupees (he is leaving for Europe). Zahid tells the yogi about the money; when he returns to his house, money, wife and daughter are gone; his friend has been decapitated; the yogi has vanished into thin air. Zahid is arrested, tortured, and given life imprisonment. The brief passages describing the yogi and his entourage have some real power; the rest is tedious stuff, jolting in its transitions between first- and third-person narrations.