This is what happens when you live your life trying to get a piece of Sky Cake* in the great hereafter. Not only will you probably make yourself miserable while you’re here on earth and waste time that could be spent eating delicious actual cake, but you’ll most likely fuck up the life of everyone else involved with you.
*(For the detailed explanation of the concept of Sky Cake, check out comedian Patton Oswalt’s routine of the same name.)
Henry Scobie is a police officer in an unnamed British colony in West Africa during World War II. Scobie is incorruptible, but not naïve. Even though it's not a glamorous posting, he actually loves his work and the area. However, when he gets passed up for a promotion to the top police job, it puts stress on his marriage to Louise. Scobie doesn’t love her anymore, but does feel responsible for her. He can’t resolve his wish to stay with her desperate pleadings that they should leave.
Despite his desire to just do his job and try to keep the peace and limit the diamond smuggling that is flourishing during the war, Scobie is soon facing a host of problems. Rumors are flying that he was passed over for sleeping with native women or taking bribes from Yusef, the local smuggling kingpin. A new British official named Wilson seems to have fallen for Louise and may have a larger secret agenda, Louise is falling apart and Scobie can’t raise enough money to send her out of the country.
Trying to fulfill Louise’s wish to leave will cause Scobie to bend his own code, and that sets off a chain of events that trap him in an ethical dilemma that he can’t square with his own Catholicism. It’s bad enough to make mistakes that put you in a situation that someone you care for will be hurt no matter what, but when the Catholic rule book assures you that you’re going to be damned for eternity if you can’t do things exactly according to the manual, it makes for a rather shitty moral dilemma.
Great writing, believable characters, a unique setting and a tragic situation made for very compelling reading.