A Mexican novel that starts out with a political tinge, edges into absurdist family comedy as well as caper material, only to fumble (towards the end) into a melodramatic whodunit. (Latin American fiction's impurity is by now well accepted, but miscellany-for-miscellany's-sake continues and intensifies as a peril.) Marcos Gonzalez and his girlfriend, ""the Chamuca,"" live in Mexico City, are vaguely Marxist, and must flee separately when they're wrongfully implicated in a conspiracy charge by the police. So Marcos, desperate for cash, goes to see his old Uncle Ramon in Muerdago, offering the wealthy and sickly man a phony business deal involving mineral rights to an unused mine; and Marcos then stays around to provide Uncle Ramon with a drinking partner and friend. In the doing, however, Marcos is enmeshed in the comic greed of a passel of cousins who've gathered around Ramon in hopes of ingratiating themselves into his inheritance. Moreover, Marcos even becomes the simultaneous lover of a female cousin, Amelia, and of Amelia's daughter Lucero. Yet when Ramon dies--poisoned--and Marcos disappears (but has been poisoned too), the book abruptly drops its charm of unlikely alliances and becomes a pale detective story of no great distinction. Furthermore, Zatz's translation is starchy. (""Neither the owners of the hotel nor the people who used to live in the settlement had put a hand to it in ten years; or, more likely, not in twenty."") And this stiff language further muddies a novel whose purpose and potpourri-style are far from clear or satisfying.