This long Arabian nights entertainment of sorts is Waugh's most extensive novel since Island in the Sun and even though it takes place in the Middle East during the war, the action seems very far away and the atmosphere is rather languidly romantic. Perhaps because it is a russet-toned retrospective, through the eyes of Professor Reid, a quiet one to begin with. He leaves his family behind in England, joining The Mission, an intelligence unit, to be stationed first in Beirut, then in Baghdad. The liaison work there on one level is concerned with transmitting information to the Germans via two couriers, natives, who do not realize they are being used as plants; on another level it involves the affairs of the Professor and a renegade English girl, of his wife (back in England) and a young American who will be killed, and of Eve, another English girl with the boy Aziz who is their dubious informant. Eventually all save one are repatriated, the Professor to his passionless co-existence with his wife and the workaday world. The background has been executed with a certain care; the characters are only names; and the prose is perfumed with nostalgia. You will either be soothed or enervated-- it's a toss-up.