Alienation, a recurring motif in the works of Murakami, is the central theme in this novel set in metropolitan Tokyo over the course of one night. Main characters include Mari Asai, a 19-year-old student, who is spending the night reading in a Denny's. There she meets Takahashi Tetsuya, a trombone-playing student who loves Curtis Fuller's "Five Spot After Dark" song on Blues-ette; Takahashi knows Mari's sister Eri, who he was once interested in, and insists that the group of them have hung out before. Meanwhile, Eri is in a deep sleep next to a television and seems to be haunted by a menacing figure. Mari crosses ways with a retired female wrestler, Kaoru, now working as a manager in a love hotel called "Alphaville". Kaoru needs Mari to talk to a Chinese prostitute who had just been beaten in the love hotel by an office worker, Shirakawa. The group then tries to track down Shirakawa, and includes the Chinese Mafia group that 'owns' the prostitute. Parts of the story take place in a world between reality and dream, and each chapter begins with an image of a clock depicting the passage of time throughout the night.