Conspiracy, misdirection, and paranoia intertwine deliriously in this Pynchonesque roman noirwhich won 1994's Latin American Dashiell Hammett Awardby the popular Mexican author of such distinctive mystery novels as The Shadow of the Shadow (1991) and Four Hands (1994). Like Dickens, Taibo sets vividly described characters in manic motion, challenging readers to decipher what they're up to and how their separate pursuits are interconnected. To wit: Mexican mystery writer JosÇ Daniel Fierro (from Life Itself, 1994), an aficionado of televised US Women's basketball, interrupts the novel he isn't writing to investigate an outrage perpetrated upon the young athlete he has adored from afar; diminutive crime reporter Antonio Amador (a real historical figure) survives by his wits and his cojones in 1920s Barcelona, during labor unrest and a looming general strikeand keeps bumping heads with notorious anarchist Angel del Hierro (who may be the grandfather of author Fierro, who is reimagining Amador's adventures); and Jerry Milligan, a CIA operative who survived the fall of Saigon, finds himself summoned to Mexico City by an old compatriot whose criminal demands have something to do with the story Fierro is, alternately, living and reshaping. Behind it (and them) all lurks the protean figure of Leonardo da Vinci, whose documented conception of the bicycle400 years before its invention''had demonstrated the impossibility of the realm of the impossible'' (a typically Taibian formulation), ``and had thereby thrown open the door to hope.'' The novel's jagged structure, featuring rapid segues among its several narrative blocs, creates considerable early confusion, and readers may grow weary. But its characters are sharply imagined, the comic grotesquerie grows on you, the suspense keeps building, and the payoff is terrific. Dazzling, if dense, entertainment: a cockeyed magical-realist paean to the all-too-human power of the imagination in action, and under duress, then as now.