Sir Arthur George Jennings writes that “dead people never stop talking.” People think that Jennings fell off a balcony at the Beach Hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica, but in reality he was pushed. The man who killed him is still alive. Living people “wait and see,” but dead people “see and wait.” On hearing of Jennings’ death, “the father of a nation”––who remains unnamed––cried out in sorrow. Jennings observes that it is dangerous to pin everyone’s hopes and dreams on one person. He introduces the narrative as a “story of several killings,” the first of which is the violent death of a boy who is buried alive.
The opening of the novel does not explicitly introduce the major themes of the narrative to come, but it nonetheless hints at them. For example, Jennings immediately establishes that many of the characters will die, and that the dead will not disappear but maintain a presence within the narrative. Furthermore, Jennings’ warning about pinning hopes on one person turns out to be prophetic.