On the sunlit Greek island of Skios, the Fred Toppler Foundation's annual lecture is to be given by Dr Norman Wilfred, the world-famous authority on the scientific organisation of science.
He turns out to be surprisingly young and charming - not at all the intimidating figure they had been expecting.
The Foundation's guests are soon eating out of his hand.
So, even sooner, is Nikki, the attractive and efficient organiser.
Meanwhile, in a remote villa at the other end of the island, Nikki's old school-friend Georgie waits for the notorious chancer she has rashly agreed to go on holiday with, and who has only too characteristically failed to turn up.
Trapped in the villa with her, by an unfortunate chain of misadventure, is a balding old gent called Dr Norman Wilfred, who has lost his whereabouts, his luggage, his temper and increasingly all normal sense of reality - everything he possesses apart from the flyblown text of a well-travelled lecture on the scientific organisation of science...