When a Cambridge undergraduate room is broken into, the police's firm belief is that it's mere petty theft. But this is no ordinary student - Mike Rawlinson has recently hit the headlines for surviving a near-death experience in the Carminian desert. When poison is found in the burgled room, Colonel Peter Blair realises the two incidents might share a common villain. Rawlinson has been working for a Carminian mining consortium, and Blair suspects there is more to their activities than meets the eye. And with rumours of gold and uranium both being discovered in the desert, the stakes are rising - fast. Only Rawlinson's knowledge and Blair's ingenuity can prevent catastrophe - but amidst international conspiracy and double-dealing, this might be the colonel's hardest case yet.