Alan Duncan returns to his family home in Australia after the war and several years of study in England. But his homecoming is marred by the mysterious suicide of his parents' quiet and reliable parlour-maid. A search through her belongings in search of clues leads to heart-breaking revelations about the woman's identity, the death of Alan's brother Bill, and, above all, the disappearance of his brother's fiancée, Janet.
It is early 1942, and Australia is in the midst of war. While working at a Japanese hospital in the port of Broome, Dr. Ibaraki is arrested and sent to Loveday internment camp in a remote corner of South Australia. As tensions at the isolated camp escalate, the doctor's beliefs are thrown into question, and he is forced to confront his past: the promise he made in Japan and its devastating consequences.
At 18, Tom escapes ordinariness in small town Australia for Melbourne and a flat in a strange block named Cairo. There he meets the magnetic Max Cheever, and is drawn into his circle of bohemian artists and dreamers. But soon Tom is ensnared in a plot to steal a million dollar Picasso masterpiece, among undependable forgers and violent art dealers.