"In the corner of the veranda was a Zanzibar chest, carved with a skill modern Swahili carpenters have forgotten. The old camphor box bore a design of lotus, paisley, and pineapple, and was studded with rivets tarnished green in the salty air. When I opened the chest lid, cobwebs tore and something scuttled into a corner.

Inside one box file were my father’s hand-written memoirs on which he had been working for years. I opened a second file and reached down to grasp the pages. The instant I touched them they began to crumble in my hands. Time, heat, and the drenching humidity had ravaged them. Mildew dusted the covers, giving off that scent of the forgotten.

I quickly realized I had stumbled on a secret that had been buried for half a century. Here were the diaries of the man named Peter Davey, my father’s good friend. Ever since I was a boy, the story of Davey crept in and out of conversation at home in vague, half-finished sentences. The tale had always been there, yet my father never properly talked about it. Davey was a silence, a shadow that moved constantly out of the corner of one’s eye. And now, as if it had been deliberately dropped into my lap, was the full and tragic rendition of Davey’s life."