All day the heat had been barely supportable but at evening a breeze arose in the west, blowing from the heat of the setting sun and from the ocean, which lay unseen, unheard behind the scrubby foothills. It shook the rusty fingers of palm-leaf and swelled the dry sounds of summer, the frog-voices, the grating cicadas, and the ever present pulse of music from the neighbouring native huts.
In that kindly light the stained and blistered paint of the bungalow and the plot of weeds between the veranda and the dry water-hole lost their extreme shabbiness, and the two Englishmen, each in his rocking-chair, each with his whisky and soda and his outdated magazine, the counterparts of numberless fellow-countrymen exiled in the barbarous regions of the world, shared in the brief illusory rehabilitation.
Where are we?
This barbarous region is Los Angeles in the late 1940s.
To Whispering Glades Memorial Park comes Dennis Barlow, a sardonic British expatriate working at the neighbouring pet cemetery. The observance of the American Way of Death draws him into an enchanted but strictly hygienic realm of leafy parkland, tree-shrouded lake islands and bombproof mock-Tudor administrative buildings. Aimee Thanatogenos, a beautician who prepares the Loved Ones for their resting places, takes on the task of guiding him through the hidden secrets of Whispering Glades, and the far deeper mysteries of her country.