"Caterpillars? Easy, thinks Katya. Even these, thick-clustered, obscuring a tree from bole to crown and shivering their orange hairs. Caterpillars she can deal with. Still, it's a strange sight, this writhing tree: a tree in mortification. Particularly here, where the perfect lawn slopes down to the grand white house below, between clipped flowerbeds flecked with pink and blue. Off to the side, just in the corner of her vision, a gardener is trimming the edge of the lawn, his eyes on Katya and the boy and not on his scissoring blades. Rising behind the scene is the Constantiaberg. It's an autumn day, cool but bright. The mountains look their age, wrinkled and worn and shouted down by the boisterous sky. It's a lovely afternoon for a garden party.
But at the centre of the picture is an abomination. This single tree sleeved with a rind of invertebrate matter, with plump, spiked bodies the colour of burnt sugar. It's possible to imagine that the whole tree has been eaten away, replaced by a crude facsimile made of caterpillar flesh.
There's an out-of-control swarm of insects hampering the completion of Nineveh, a luxury estate outside Cape Town. When Katya Grubbs, proprietor of Painless Pest Relocations, is called in, she discovers far more to exorcise than the mysterious infestation. Her own past returns to torment her in the form of her unruly father and the chaos he creates. With Nineveh crumbling around her, Katya is forced to question her own place in a rapidly changing world.