An intense, bulging novel of Key West that has less in common with the author's celebrated debut, Rabbit Boss (1973), than with his problematic second novel, Zoot-Suit Murders (1978). Sanchez's ambition and reach are clear from his opening chapter, which uses three motifs--the launching of the space shuttle, the arrival of a boatload of Haitian refugees, and the murder of a drug-running yachtsman--to establish Key West as a microcosm of America. And the leading characters--the burned-out radical St. Cloud; the Cuban-American cop Justo; the down-home madonna Lila and her former lover, Vietnam vet MK; the aging blind painter Renoir and his model Angelica; the shark-killer Bubba-Bob; and the prophet-murderer Zobop--are developed with an eye to their metaphorical possibilities. But despite memorable characters and hypnotic scenes, the heavy dose of metaphor overwhelms the plot, and it's hard to care who bombed Karl Dean's yacht or why somebody carried a goat to the top of a tower, slit its throat, and hung up the carcass when there are always more people, more poisoned memories, more tangled intrigue in the wings. Readers trying to follow Justo's attempts to save the Haitian boy Voltaire, sole survivor of an unlucky boat, or to identify the mysterious Zobop, who associates himself by turns with voodoo and the mother sea, are bound to be exasperated long before the brilliantly extended Halloween finale. Even those with a taste for discontinuous anecdote and aphorism (""A pig's tail will never make a good arrow. . .Getting the candy out of the wrapper doesn't always mean you can eat it"") may find Sanchez's world impossibly rich in observation and incident. Sanchez's extravagant gifts are evident on every page. But all the pages together amount to only a heap of dazzling fragments.