Tom Brodzinski, an unspectacular middle-aged American, enjoys his final cigarette in an island continent, a place of spotless beaches and perfect, soulless boulevards. However, when he tosses the fag-end over his balcony he discovers that this is not quite the Westerners’ idyll he had imagined. The smouldering butt lands on the head of an elderly millionaire, Reggie Lincoln III, causing a blister which becomes infected. Reggie is perfectly content with Tom’s apology, but Reggie’s wife is part of the Tayswengo tribe, whose law is in force in this country. The Tayswengo people do not believe in accidents, and do not take the victim’s wishes into consideration: the result is that Tom is to be tried under local law for attempted murder, and must stay where he is.
Events soon become even stranger. An honorary consul named Adams and a lawyer named Swai-Phillips appear, both seemingly apprised of the situation, and take over Tom’s case. Martha, Tom’s wife, returns home with their children and won’t speak to Tom, although she appears to be speaking to Adams about ‘another