Chilean author Skármeta (The Postman, 1995, etc.) returns to post-dictatorship Santiago in this tale of beauty, crime and revenge.
In an attempt to deplete Santiago’s overflowing jails—and in part to right a previous wrong—the government has suddenly granted an amnesty for nonviolent prisoners. Among those released are Ángel Santiago, a young man who years earlier had stolen a horse, and Nicolás Vergara Gray, a notorious (but gentle and reflective) bank robber. Ángel has been seared by his experience in prison, most notably for having been literally tossed into a den of thieves and brutalized at the behest of the evil warden Santoro. Now that he’s out he wants revenge, and because Santoro knows of this desire, on the sly the warden also lets out Rigoberto Marín, a lifer, for 30 days, to allow him to assassinate Ángel. Ángel, however, doesn’t just want revenge, he wants romance, and this comes to him unexpectedly in the form of Victoria Ponce, a 17-year-old dancer who’s recently been booted from school for truancy and general recalcitrance. While their relationship is intensely sexual, it’s also very sweet, for Ángel, who has a photographic memory, begins to tutor Victoria so that she can complete her academic education and attend dance school. Meanwhile, Vergara Gray wants nothing more than to be reunited with his long-suffering wife Teresa, but he finds her both indifferent and impatient—she’s suffered enough. Intrigue thickens as the recently released prisoners find themselves woefully short of money; they need to be creative in coming up with ways to find enough cash to eke out a day-to-day existence on the gritty streets of the city. To aid them, criminal genius Lira the Dwarf, whose brilliance is in inverse proportion to his stature, sends Vergara Gray a letter from jail outlining a plan to make them all rich.
A novel with a paradoxical combination of warmth and guile.