It is a long and perilous journey for the oddly assorted couple - the British pilot who has been shot down and the native girl with the bandaged head. It seems a sadly useless journey, for the war is over. Japan has been beaten. A new country has arisen out of the old Tonkin, Annam and Cochin-China. It is called Vietnam, and the allies have agreed that the Chinese (and that means Chiang Kai-shek) shall occupy the north and the British shall hold the south until the French get organised and send their own troops there.
Certainly Don Everett was not expecting such an outcome when he set out from Thailand to fly his mission of mercy - taking cholera serum to our Chinese allies. And a couple of landmines, too. When the plane was shot down and Don baled out, the landmines exploded on a native village, leaving only one survivor: a fourteen year old girl, whom Don feels bound to take with him. It’s a sort of moral obligation.
Their adventures and escapes along the booby trapped jungle paths, harassed by Viet-Minh guerrillas and Japanese who do not seem to know the war is over, sweep the reader to the brutal climax with such power that, although the delicate relationship between the man and the girl is unfolded with impressive subtlety, there is scarcely time to realise that they cannot even communicate with each other. And there is a final twist of irony, based on a little known historical fact, that will come as a shock to all but a handful of experts.