Under the hot desert sun nothing is quite as it seems. Howard Ingham, an American writer, is sent to Tunisia to gather material for a movie, a love story too sordid to be set in America. But his director fails to arrive as scheduled and the erratic mails bring news of infidelities and suicide.
Ingham, for reasons obscure even to himself, decides to stay on and work instead on a novel. Gradually, however, a series of peculiar events, a hushed-up murder, a vanished corpse, and secret broadcasts to the Soviet Union, lures him inexorably into the deep, ambivalent shadows of this Arab town; into deceit and away from conventional morality. And when Ingham finds an accomplice to murder, or perhaps something more, what is in question is not justice or truth, but the state of his oddly quiet conscience.