In the narrative Anil travels throughout Sri Lanka, her former country, trying to identify Sailor’s skeleton, and in doing so implicates the government in the murders of innocent people.
Anil returns to Sri Lanka as part of a Human Rights group sent by the UN. Her investigation leads to various questions as to the nature of human rights and the violation of them on the part of the government.
There is a description of Anil's previous travels in Latin America where she encountered a different kind of anthropology. Latin America's war-torn state is often contrasted with Sri Lanka, the former having a clear and definite enemy whereas Sri Lanka does not.
Anil sets about to identify Sailor through the use of forensic pathology while Sarath deploys archaeology. The novel makes various references to the practice and techniques used to identify Sailor.
Hundred Years War
Anil compares Sri Lanka’s state of war to the Hundred Years War on pages 42–43: "It was a Hundred Years' War with modern weaponry, and backers on the sidelines in safe countries, a war sponsored by gun- and drug-runners."