Daniel Skipton, a wonderfully horrible comic character, is an English author living in the Belgian city of Bruges. Ruth Rendell describes him as 'poverty-stricken, appallingly rude to everyone, a master of language and a raging paranoiac.' He lives in an attic, nursing innumerable, imaginary grievances. He is foul to his long-suffering publisher and grossly unappreciative of the relative upon whose generosity he depends. Yet he makes us laugh and we even end up admiring his talent for the pithy phrase. Unable to get his second book published, he lives by his wits, striving for ways to 'turn a dishonest penny.' He meets a group of people even grubbier than he : a crooked antiques dealer, an Italian 'count', a group of foolish English aristocrats and Mimi - who presides over some unusual revels. The fun begins when they all try to outwit each other.