When Lucifer Dye is released from three months in a Hong Kong prison, debriefed, handed a false passport, a new wardrobe and a $20,000 check, his haughty control makes it clear that Dye’s career with his country has been permanently terminated. But a good agent is always in demand, and just a few hours later Dye is being interviewed for a highly ingenious position. Victor Orcutt, although a not very good imitation of a British pre-war gent, has creative talents of his own. He has his sights a small southern city, with the ordinary run-of-the-mill corruption one would expect in such a place. The canny Orcott knows there’s no profit in that . His creed is “To get better, it must be much worse.” He and his two associates have looked up Dye’s history, and he now offers the ex-spy’s a mission. For two and a half times the government’s bounty, Dye is to thoroughly corrupt the town. And the sly Dye takes the offer.