Bioy Casares follows his triumphant metaphysical mystery, The Dream of Heroes (1988), with the competent and absorbing story of a young man's coming-of-age during a mazelike visit to a provincial capital. Nicolasito Almanza, a small-time photographer, goes to La Plata on an assignment. Upon arriving, he meets Don Juan Lombardo and his two lovely daughters, Griselda and Julia. At a boardinghouse Lombardo takes sick and mistakes Almanza for his son; Almanza, for his part, gives blood to the stricken man. The young man's friends, particularly the cop Mascardi, warn him that the family is ""really a gang of dubious individuals with a long record"" and ""the devil himself--Satan."" Almanza remains faithful to his artificial family but shares a boardinghouse room with Mascardi, and the plot becomes a merry-go-round as Almanza goes back and forth between the two boardinghouses (he sleeps eventually with both daughters, first the married Griselda, who has left her husband, and then Julia, who accompanies him on his photographic treks about town) and a local cafe, especially, though other locales recur as well. Various reversals and intrigues work themselves out as Almanza waits for some promised money to arrive; eventually, he gets his money and another assignment and leaves, despite his love for Julia, but before he departs she gives him a gift: a kaleidoscope. Unlike The Dream of Heroes, this one remains a slight, amusing puzzle that ends with a summarizing image instead of a deeply resonant (and inevitable) conclusion. Still and all, Bioy Casares is inventive even when his material is more minimalist than magical.