The waning fortunes of British colonists in Ceylon during WW II: a vivid tale, by the author of The Final Act (1980), of an eccentric culture perched on the outer rim of Empire. Straight from the bombed ruin of London, Guy Tancred arrives in Ceylon on assignment for a corporation with a stake in the island's rubber plantations. Deposited in this backwater curiously removed from the war, and alienated from his older brother Harry (a contrary plantation manager with an interest in Buddhism), Guy immerses himself in work and in what passes for local society, focusing increasing attention on Harry's wife Jill. But all is not gin and cricket over at the Columbo Club: Ceylon's defenses amount to no more than a few scraps left over from WW 1; shelters and provisions are in short supply; a radical nationalist movement is gaining ground; and throughout, the Japanese armada, emboldened after Pearl Harbor and Singapore, steadily advances towards the island. While Ceylon cranks up its rickety forces, the remarkably shallow Guy pursues and finally seduces Jill. Topping off this compliment, Guy turns Harry over to the authorities for allegedly collaborating with the Japanese--but not before the Zero planes arrive to make mush of Ceylon's scattered resistance and bring the island face to face with the vicious side of the 20th century. By way of contrast, there are a number of nice touches here, in particular the remarkably realized eccentrics: the bemused civil servant who's having difficulty keeping his model train on schedule; the matron bicycling to luncheon during an air raid; the local Governor troubled by gas and a weakness for classical allusion. Altogether, a rich, often disturbing portrait of a bygone world that offers also the unusual view of WW II from an Eastern perspective.