The mountains and waters of Ivundé, in the Indian Ocean, contain something of immense value. To gain control of the Island, a shadowy Middle East group uses the cover of a madrassas-building project to arrange what at first sight is a local extremist takeover. The UK/US, with the help of local sources, and a retired academic and a professional intelligence officer – who discover the truth – use their Special Forces, re-gain control of the Island.
This is a story of deception. Power deceives as it manipulates reality. Those who wield it – the diplomats and politicians – can only behave as their experience and allegiances allow them to, and the Island looks certain to be dragged from its idyllic existence, where time is of little essence, into a hectic Nauruesque future.
Some of those who live on the Island will see only clouds, others, silver linings. They include: Rosalie, a smart, if unsophisticated semi-local, and her US cowboy husband; ‘free-thinkers’, Valli and Meera, who, with their ‘daughters’, dispense wisdom and Darjeeling from their Emporium in the town; and Madame Lemesurier, owner of the Mirabile, who seeks guidance from her husband, at rest under a marble slab below a baobab in the Hotel gardens.
At the centre of the conspiracy, and under the control of the shadowy Middle East group, is a Chinese scientist. From enforced exile in North Korea, he has been ‘lent’ to the group and compelled to carry out ‘disturbing’ research from his prison on a madrassa site.
The wild landscape of the Island, its madrassas’ construction sites and its hotel, the run-down Mirabilé, provide much of the setting for the story, though the exercise of deception also pushes the action from place-to-place: a faceless office in London, GCHQ, the military bases of Djibouti and Diego Garcia, and the Presidential Palace in the mainland capital.