The characters parade through this novel like freaks at a carnival and each one is the victim of his own private demon. Mr. Benturian's demon turns his fantasies into enormous cash profits, while his secretary, Mr. Ampersand, harbors a criminal who leads him along a less lucrative and humiliating path. A mysterious prince is also possessed by a malefactor, but this renders him cool, rational and perceptive. There are other titled folk with occult and masochistic demons, and servants with simpler ones. Of the greatest importance, however, is the yacht Melphomene, docked in Marseilles, steeped in antiquity but patched with concrete, where barons, princes, marchesas, principessas, dukes, et al. gather in the year 1960 and are thereby known as the ""First Annual Gala Nautical Rendezvous and Cultural Odyssey of the Hereditary European Nobility"" under the supervision of Mr. Benturian and his recreation director, Mr. Ampersand. The adventures are numerous as the Melpomene sputters along the Mediterranean and finally sinks into the mud in the shallow Gulf of Gaeta near Naples. Only Martha, an ex-Standford co-ed, widowed by a French duke, and her two sons are really human -- as is her gentler demon, curiosity... Whether read as allegory, farce or satire- the handling is heavy and there will be those to founder- with the Melpomene.