Michel is a civil-servant at the Ministry of Culture. When his father is murdered, Michel takes leave of absence to go on a package tour to Thailand. Infuriated by the shallow hypocrisy and mediocrity of his fellow travellers, only the awkward Valerie attracts his attention. Too bashful to pursue her, Michel prefers the uncomplicated pleasures of Thai massage parlours and sex with local women. Back in Paris, he calls Valerie and they plunge into a passionate affair, which strays into S&M, partner-swapping and sex in public. Michel quits his job, and tries to help Valerie and her boss, Jean-Yves, in their ailing travel business, by offering travel packages based on sex tourism in the third world. When their project comes to fruition and the three return to Thailand, Michel discovers that sex is neither the most consuming nor the most dangerous of human passions...
'Reading Houellebecq is like being caught up in a tropical storm: you are blown away by the ferocity of his imagination' Observer