Bob Harlow is an academic; Vern Cugnet is an auto mechanic.  Beside this difference, Bob has another distinction – his once-pleasant life in North Dakota is going to hell. Terrible things are befalling Bob, his family and friends:  strange infections, nasty infestations, thefts and accidents – one of which is fatal. And Bob realises that the jinx is the result of a side trip he took into Tibet after a year-long sabbatical in China. There, in the Place of the Dead, Bob committed thoughtless sacrilege when he pocketed two mani stones – engraved funeral markers – as souvenirs. No matter what the obstacles, he must return the sacred objects. Vern – naive, crude and indomitable – volunteers to go along and the unlikely companions set out to undo the curse. The trek will take them through China, India and Nepal and involve them in border frays, encounters will holy hermits and bloodthirsty demons and finally, an audience with the Dalai Lama himself.