Australia was in the grip of a tremendous heatwave, when a group of people living in Tyson's Bend in the remote Victorian Mallee, Australia, heard the news that their ticket had won £100,000 in a lottery. Excitedly they gathered at Sally Moyes' hotel to celebrate, but their delight quickly gave place to anger and bitterness when Sally, into whose care the ticket had been given, found that it had disappeared from her desk.
Suspicion was rife, and soon the settlement seethed with cross-currents of greed and personal animosity, involving every member of the syndicate. Sally's brother appealed to Alan Birchip - a former inhabitant of the Bend and now a lawyer in Melbourne - to help find the thief, but Birchip refused to have any part in such a sticky business. He changed his mind, however, when he learned that James Cullerman, a mysterious man with a brutal criminal record, was probably skulking in the Bend under an assumed name.
And when a particularly horrifying murder occurred within an hour of Birchip's arrival in the Bend, and a howling dust storm disrupted telephone lines and isolated the settlement from help, Birchip found that, whether he liked it or not, he must find the killer, and the ticket, and restore peace to the settlement.