The regions that have survived the holocaust in Watson's new novel have largely transformed themselves from prewar violence into a peaceful utopia, without either conflict or art. In place of belief in a religious afterlife, the old and ailing accept euthanasia at Houses of Death where priestlike guides counsel them. One of these guides is Jim Todhunter, who pursues research into the nature of death despite official censure. When he is assigned to guide that rarity in the new world - a murderer - he finds a natural ally in the obsessive Nathan Weinberger, himself an ex-guide. As usual with Watson, the initial impression of a green and pleasant land is revealed to be only one facet of a more complex and disturbing reality.