New Zealand twenty years ago, when margarine was sold on prescription in pharmacies and protective tariffs ruled . . .
The Minister of Cultural Links and Trade, an ex-dairy farmer called Hamish Carew, sets off on a "Swing Around" of New Zealand's Asian friends and neighbours. With him are his wife Molly and two young officials, Freddy Manders and Violet Redpath.
It should be a routine affair. But Molly doesn't like shopping, Freddy is consumed by bitterness at the wife who left him and the superiors who have sidelined his career, Violet finds herself unexpectedly ready for romance - and lurking on the horizon is the shadowy terrorist group Lightning Storm.