Set during the period of growing influence of the Indian independence movement in the British Raj, the story begins with the arrival in India of a British woman, Miss Adela Quested, who is joining her fiancé, a city magistrate named Ronny Heaslop. She and Ronny's mother, Mrs. Moore, befriend an Indian doctor, Aziz H. Ahmed.
A rule bound head butler's world of manners and decorum in the household he maintains is tested by the arrival of a housekeeper who falls in love with him in post-WWI Britain. The possibility of romance and his master's cultivation of ties with the Nazi cause challenge his carefully maintained veneer of servitude.
A trading company manager travels up an African river to find a missing outpost head and discovers the depth of evil in humanity's soul.