Well-bred Hugh Brownlow, frustrated with not having yet been knighted for his work as a National Arts Council top dog in London, opts for a new job: the Ponsonby Post, UN Liaison Officer in Indonesia (a post named in memory of a UN field-worker who was shredded by a wayward tractor--""Thus Progress does make ribbons of us all""). Soon after settling down in Djogjakarta with wife and daughter, Brownlow finds himself playing detective; a comely World Food Programme volunteer has been murdered, and a local aviator dies when his plane crashes. When Brownlow comes too close to connecting both those deaths to a pair of disturbed homosexuals, they abduct him during a posh party--by spiking the punch with hashish and creating orgiastic havoc-and leave him to die in a wasteland. He is reluctantly rescued by members of the PKI, a Communist terrorist group hiding out nearby. This thriller-ish and politically angled scenario, however, is the least engaging aspect of highly talented Bernice Rubens' rather slapdash, a-little-bit-of-everything novel: the portrayal of the terrorists is unreasonably romantic, the anti-colonial message obvious as well as old-hat. So much better are some of the side-show vignettes of colonial life in Djogjakarta--especially a German businessman's literal imprisonment of his portly wife, who has come to Indonesia from Berlin to tell him, in person, that she's leaving him for another man. Rubens (I Sent a Letter To My Love) is at her ironic, coolly compassionate best with the intense but narrow lives of people who are neither heroes nor villains; here there are only snatches of such funny/heart-breaking material. But even the less distinctive, more didactic moments in this uneven and unfocused book are edged with the intelligence and witty incisiveness of an unpretentious, intriguing writer.