This is the third title in the “Raj Quartet” of novels by Paul Scott, which were dramatised by Granada TV as the series “The Jewel in Crown”, and the title refers to the towers used by members of the Parsi religion for so-called “air burials” in which the dead are left on a platform (or “tower”) to be “disposed of” by the vultures.
The story focuses on the last days of the British Raj in India, and on the (sometimes paranoid, sometimes absurd) behaviour of a group of Europeans in the hill station of Pankot, and in the town of Ranpur, down on the plains. They are shackled by duty and tradition, and somewhat disorientated by the sun setting on empire, and by Indian independence looming on the horizon. Scott manages to capture the spirit of the times perfectly, describing the world as seen through the eyes of the various protagonists, each with own their hopes, fears, and (sometimes petty) social agendas. It’s easy for the reader to become immersed in a real “moment in time”.
It actually pays to read the books in order (“The Jewel in the Crown”, “The Day of the Scorpion”, “The Towers Of Silence”, and “A Division of the Spoils”) since the story line continues, and the same characters appear, throughout.