Jacques Revel, a Frenchman hired by an English export firm for one year. He arrives in the northern industrial city of Bleston knowing no one and speaking little English. He walks the cold, rainy streets of the ancient city and becomes obsessed with its strange power, afraid that it will swallow him up as it has so many others. To protect himself from its evil spell, he keeps a journal, describing the maze of streets in the main part of town, the two cathedrals, and the museum. He recounts the events that take place during his stay in a confused account that moves “through a labyrinth of time and memory.” Soon after arriving, he meets a fellow outcast, a black man, and together they roam the dreary streets and visit the dark, dirty pubs. He meets the author of The Bleston Murder and tries to solve the mystery of a near-fatal accident. He suspects, then absolves, a colleague of attempted murder, and he falls in love twice but is unable to declare himself. Finally, he leaves the city a year later, longing for its total destruction.
George Burton, a detective-story writer who has used a pseudonym for his latest book, fearing the town’s hostile reaction to the murder scene that takes place in its new cathedral. Burton reveals his true identity to Revel and swears him to secrecy, but Revel betrays him to the Bailey sisters and to James Jenkins. Soon afterward, Burton is hit by a...
(The entire section is 531 words.)