An excellent novel of white men penetrating the Stone Age bush culture of New Guinea, this is apparently something of a roman a clef based upon some personal experiences and several real deaths. The main character, Assistant District Officer Marshall, is in charge of a godforsaken post in the backcountry. His dedication to his job, opening up virign territory to civilization, reaching natives who have never seen a white man before (or even a wheel or an airplane), has already, cost him his fashionable wife. Now, an American priest-linguist with UNESCO arrives to study and collate the Stone Age languages. The priest is great with a tape-recorder but a dunce in the bush. However, Marshall's superiors instruct him to give the priest every service and so Marshall allows the fellow to accompany him on a special, trek through the Yakanaki Valley, a job of pure exploration. Inadvertent death after death occurs, climaxed by the priest's murder. While the narrative is compelling, there is an equal informed fascination in the natives, as they respond to the magic of a shovel, or a wheelbarrow.