Grafton, an American writer of travel guides in need of a new location, chooses to travel to a small, obscure Eastern European country. The moment he crosses the border he is in trouble, much more than he could have imagined. His passport is taken by guards. Then he is detained for not having it. He is released into the custody of a family, but is again detained. It becomes evident that there are supernatural agencies at work, but in some ways they are not as threatening as the brute forces of bureaucracy and corruption in that country. Is our hero in fact a spy for the CIA? Or is he an innocent citizen caught in a Kafkaesque trap? Gene Wolfe keeps us guessing until the very end, and afterword.