Harry Escombe is a young apprentice in a civil engineer's office. The firm has received a contract to survey and built a railway line in Peru. Harry is chosen to go, and is informed that if he does well in the work the future for him is pretty bright.
But there is a fly in the ointment. The man in charge of the project is about as nasty as anyone can be: his character is beautifully depicted throughout the book. He makes Harry do a piece of surveying in an unnecessarily dangerous manner, as a result of which he falls down a precipice from which he cannot be rescued, and is therefore written off as dead.
But he was indeed rescued. He was taken to a house where he remained in a coma for some time. Then he is thought to be a re-incarnation of The Inca, and taken by Indians to their own city, where he is worshipped as a god. This could be quite embarrassing if you found yourself in this situation, as you’d be unable to perform miracles, and do the things a deity might be expected to do. However, Harry managed rather well. But eventually he manages to escape from the situation, and to return to his home in England.