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the firm of archibald babcock and sons is located on sentinel island in the caribbean. although it appears to be part of the united states, it is independent. the company is in sovereign territory, free of all legal restraints. it is one of the world's wealthiest and most powerful companies, controlling its employees with an iron hand. it lures employees by offering them extremely high salaries and a luxurious lifestyle. once they are there, they cannot leave. the company has complete control over them, including the power of life and death. alison lewis, an ambitious young accountant, takes a position on sentinel island. she stays in touch with her family and with her cousin, kathleen murray. alison seems happy, but she will say very little about her job, or about her new life. then, after a couple of years, kathleen stops hearing from her. the company says she no longer works for them. alison has completely disappeared. kathleen meets a writer, sam thornton, who shares in interest in sentinel island. he decides the help find out what had happened to alison. they are unprepared for what they will discover as they begin the difficult and, as it turns out, dangerous job of finding out what had happened to alison, and learning the truth about sentinel island.