In 1959, French photojournalist Girard Pelletier dies while reporting on the Chinese invasion of Tibet. Neither his body nor his notes on Chinese human rights abuses are recovered; his colleagues believe he was murdered. Seventeen years later his wife, Erzebet, receives an official invitation from the Chinese Government to join an educational exchange in the same region where Girard disappeared. She accepts the invitation. She believes she will solve the mystery of her husband's death. She will find his murderers. While in Tibet, a romance flares between Erzebet and Norbu, a handsome nomad. Under the guise of needing someone to protect Erzebet, the village has sent him to stay in her tent. The villagers have Girard's missing notes and are trying to determine if she can be trusted to take them back to the West. Meanwhile, KaI Lun, Erzebet's translator, is an unwilling spy. Police are holding his wife and son hostage until he returns to China with the volatile documents. Kai Lun bullies and browbeats Erzebet, the nomads and local monks in his relentless search to surface the papers and ultimately is forced to confront his own shrinking humanity. What appears to be a scholarly quest evolves into a twisting tale of the police, forbidden romance, dangerous adventures, and personal obsessions played out against the backdrop of the spectacular landscape, exotic people, wildlife and flowers of Tibet.