A simple, but by no means timid, story provides the basis for layers of meaning and discovery in this first novel by a Brazilian diplomat. In 1926 a 14-year-old girl is married off to a wealthy, 66- year-old Brazilian plantation owner ``in a ceremony resembling a first communion more than a wedding.'' Guillhermina is so young that her suitor presents her with a doll along with her engagement ring. On their wedding night he rapes her, and she plans for seven years to kill him, finally trapping him in their wine cellar and letting him starve to death. This tale is initially related by Guillhermina's grand-niece Andrea to Fernando, a film-director friend who by chance wanders into her antiques store in Bras°lia. When the director suggests that Andrea write a script about her aunt, she tries, but resists turning Guillhermina's life into ``a soap opera.'' Together she and Fernando look through old papers and photographs and reconstruct Guillhermina's post-murder trail, which involved constant travel and relationships with such odd characters as a woman who owned three green dwarves who performed with circuses. In the final section, Fernando goes to Paris to try and piece together more of the story; he meets with several of Guillhermina's acquaintances and sees how they intersected with one another later on. These goings-on are labyrinthine without being confusing, and whenever the story teeters at the edge of melodrama, Ribeiro pulls it back into the acerbic contemporary world with moments like Fernando's description of his ``turn-of-the-century courtship'' with Andrea, and her sardonic comments on his poor filmmaking abilities. An exuberant dissection of crisscrossing paths with the intrigue of a mystery and the emotional impact of a biography.