Newcomer Pawel, a young Brooklyn high-school teacher, turns the clock back to 1939 and Madrid’s tumultuous past. The Nationalists, on the winning side of the Civil War, are determined to restore order by viciously eliminating remnants of the Communist-backed Republican cause. When Carlos Tejada Alonso y Léon, a sergeant in the Guardia Civil, recognizes his compadre in the siege of Toledo, Paco Lopez, as the corpse lying dead in the street, he is so incensed that he immediately executes the woman bending over to retrieve a notebook, assuming that she has killed Lopez. Determined to find out what was so important about the notebook, Tejada begins a search for its owner. Meanwhile, Gonzalo Llorente is released from the hospital to learn that his lover Viviana has been murdered. Despite his lack of identity papers and his urgent need to hide from the Falangists, he is determined to find the Guardia officer who killed her. The two men are now on a collision course that wends past black marketeers and a mysterious woman named Isabel before the whole truth about Paco’s death is revealed.
An intriguing juxtaposition of the political and the personal. Warning: The fainthearted may gasp at Tejada’s casual cruelty, which is somewhat at odds with the denouement.