When Emily Kingsley arrives at the church for her eccentric Great Aunt Mary's funeral, she is still grieving for her broken relationship with the vain, mean and unfaithful Ted, and has little sorrow to spare. At the wake afterwards, she is dismayed to learn the content's of Mary's will. Emily and her cousin Clemmie must go to Mali, where they are to travel by camel into the Sahara Desert to scatter her ashes. Clemmie, fanciful and rootless, is thrilled at the chance of adventure. Emily is not. With immense reluctance, she agrees to travel to Mali, and find Timadjlalen, a place in the desert that no one has ever heard of. Why Mary chose it as her final resting place she cannot imagine, and the thought of a hot, pointless trip is almost too much to bear. But once Emily and Clemmie set foot on the Saharan sand, and begin to uncover Mary's sixty-year-old secret, they come to understand why they must complete her journey...