Professor Brian Stoddart is an international consultant who works mainly on higher education reform in Asia and the Middle East, and is currently Distinguished Fellow of the Australia India Institute based at the University of Melbourne. He trained as a South Asianist then also became an international authority on sport and culture. His academic career was spent in Australia, Malaysia, Canada and Barbados, and he finished his formal career with a term as Vice-Chancellor and President at La Trobe University in Australia. In addition to his formal work he is a regular contributor to regular and new media as a columnist and commentator.
Superintendent Chris Le Fanu returns to Madras from Penang where he leaves his new Straits Chinese love interest, Jenlin Koh, and a tempting new post in police intelligence there. He finds Hindu-Muslim tension on the rise in Madras, and his friends and subordinates Mohammad Habibullah and Jackson Caldicott at loggerheads as a result.
A series of Muslim murders around the Presidency adds more tension. Le Fanu's arch enemy, Inspector-General Arthur "The Jockey" Jepson is reacting recklessly to the new conditions, then Le Fanu has to travel to Hyderabad where his former housekeeper and lover Roisin McPhedren is seriously ill. Le Fanu swings between his personal and professional challenges as a gang of revolutionaries and Hindu nationalists from North India travel south to aggravate the troubles. Le Fanu and Jepson clash head-on as the latter causes several policemen to be killed, and Le Fanu is losing support because his main civil service protectors are leaving Madras.
Just as he seems close to overcoming all these problems, news arrives that Jenlin Koh is on board a ship reported missing near Ceylon. How will Le Fanu cope?