A writer, who has lived for years in London, reluctantly acknowledges his growing obsession with the Ewyas Valley on the border of England and Wales. Commissioned to write about Walter Savage Landor's disastrous attempt to set up a senatorial estate around Llanthony Abbey, he is sidetracked by more recent conspiracies: a bizarre series of twenty-seven suicides in the secret defence industries and unreliable witnesses who claim to have uncovered the truth about the Thorpe case. A burnt-out media burn called Kaporal, employed to research these events, sends the narrator taped reports from his journeys up and down the M4, tapes that come to seem like messages thrown over the side by a lost and fraudulent round-the-world sailor - are they evidence, or deranged fictions, contrived to keep Kaporal on the payroll? The valley is revealed as the site of persistent attempts to found or imagine utopian communities, all fascinated by the mythology of the west. The narrator is accused of one of the murders that Kaporal is researching. Incarcerated in an asylum on the River Usk, long-suppressed memories of his childhood in Wales return to haunt him. This is lain Sinclair's first novel for eight years, and his first book to be set outside London.