World War II is raging, but in this dusty backwater of the Belgian Congo, the most pressing problem is finding a cold beer. That's the case at least for Hooper Talliaferro, a genial U.S. government flunkey sent to Africa on a vague errand related to the war effort. What he finds at the failing Congo-Ruizi plantation won't help the Allies much. Like colonialism itself, the owner is dying of a slow poison, and neither his bitter wife nor the plantation manager can muster the energy to care. But along with Hooper arrives Dr. Mary Finney, a formidable missionary with both moral outrage and sleuthing skills to spare.