Shalimar the Clown was once a figure full of love and laughter. His skill as a tightrope walker was legendary in his native home of Kashmir. But fate has played him cruelly, torn him away from his beloved home and brought him to Los Angeles, where he works as a chauffeur. One morning he gets up, goes to work, and brutally slays his employer, America's former counter-terrorist chief Maximilian Ophuls, in full view of the victim's illegitimate daughter, India. Despite the political overtones, it soon emerges that this is a murder with a much darker heart to it. The killing has its roots halfway across the globe, back in Kashmir, a ruined paradise not so much lost as shattered. And gradually it emerges that beyond this unholy trinity of Max, India and Shalimar, lurks a fourth, shadowy figure, one who binds them all together.