Larry Dunne divides his time between writing bad avant-garde poetry, working in a Bloomsbury bookshop, arguing with his girlfriend Pamela and putting the world to rights in a dive off the Strand named Joe's Club in honour of Stalin. Envious of Pamela and her upper-class friends, envious of the Comrades' intellectual certainties and especially envious of friend Peter's book, Larry takes off to Hungary to breathe the purer air of an ideal state and bask in universal fellowship and equality. But reality in late 50s Budapest is rather different. He soon finds out that the state runs on envy, paranoia and two-stroke, and wants nothing more than to get back to his cosy world of Bohemian London as quickly as possible. Then a woman is murdered in a neighbouring apartment, and he finds himself under suspicion with his passport confiscated. Larry realises that if the murderer isn't caught, he could be in Budapest for a very long time.