Tom Norris has problems of his own, and chief among them is: who is he? It is a time of general stress and strain, for Tom is Assistant Education Officer to the South Sussex Council, and the County Hall, long threatened by wind and rain on its bleak headland, is about to meet its destruction at the hands of a Boundaries Commission. Where can its strange and unnerved inhabitants find another refuge?
While Tom pursues his quest for identity and purpose, he reluctantly takes into his office Phoebe Huber, and otherwise rejected member of staff whose meek manner conceals a formidable gift for subversion. Tom begins by feeling sorry for Phoebe, but chaos is her natural element and she is better qualified than Tom to live in it. As little by little she takes possession of him, the South of England is hit by one of the worst blizzards in living memory. The snow blots out the familiar landscape, order breaks down both inside and outside the County Hall, the boundary between reality and fantasy grows indistinct, the wolf returns to the hills.