When your brother Malcolm sends you a telegram inviting you to visit him at Biblioll College in the ancient university town of Christminster, you imagine that the mysterious `discovery' he alludes to is nothing more than some esoteric bit of chemistry, and that you'll have a pleasant day out in beautiful surroundings. But when you get to Christminster, nothing is as you expect. Where has Malcolm vanished to? What are the unpleasant Doctor Jarboe and the positively repulsive Professor Bungay up to? And what do long-forgotten alchemical treatises have to do with the modern day?