Paul Bowles has achieved a rather indelible reputation as a writer even though he appears infrequently with essays, short stories, expatriate-exotica, etc. and perhaps because his early novel, The Sheltering Sky created such a furor. Here once again there is an insistent, almost tactile, sense of mood and menace and the prismatic prose shows off to unquestionable effectiveness in this torpid, dusty, spiny landscape in a country somewhere to the south. One is never quite sure what is happening or is going to happen; evil seems to be everywhere, rather like a disembodied presence. Equally faceless are the American couple, the Slades, traveling there. He is a much older man; she is his second wife; beyond that they make little contact with each other or the reader. In a city, they are picked up by a dilettante decadent, Grove (or Veto) Soto who has a casual, insolent attraction. He is living with Luchita, a Cuban girl who dreams of Paris and dreams through grass (marijuana). The first evening Mr. Slade becomes strangely ill and is taken to Vero's hacienda where he loses consciousness. Mrs. Slade too is less seriously sick but also suffers from amnesia, a feeling of disassociation, and an increasing uneasiness with her host. It is all only too well Justified by the close which reduces it to melodrama rather than psycho-drama. Still, it has been a figurative and literal skinprickler--balefully hypnotic.