(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The Zany and his fellow homeless beggars lie sleeping in the shadow of the cathedral as night falls. Too poor to pay fines, they are generally undisturbed by the police, but Colonel Sonriente decides to amuse himself by tormenting the Zany, whose one comfort in his miserable life is memories of his mother. When the colonel awakens him by shouting, “Mother!” in his ear, the Zany jumps up and beats the colonel to death.

The beggars are rounded up by the police and tortured to reveal the identity of the murderer. Strangely enough, the correct answer, the Zany, does not seem to satisfy the police. Clearly, the authorities want to blame the crime on someone else.

Meanwhile, the Zany flees through the streets of the city until he falls and breaks his leg. He is attacked by a buzzard and would have died if not for the intervention of a mysterious, strikingly handsome man named Miguel Ángel Face.

Ángel Face is an unofficial adviser to the president, a ruthless tyrant. The president informs Ángel Face that he has a job for him, but a rather tricky one. A political enemy of the president, General Canales, is to be implicated in the murder of Colonel Sonriente, but it does not suit the president’s purposes to have him arrested. Rather, Ángel Face is to force the general to become a fugitive by telling one of his servants that the police are on their way to arrest him.

After the general duly flees, Ángel Face, aided by the thugs Vasquez and Rodas, raids the general’s house and kidnaps his daughter, Camila. The smooth-talking Ángel Face assures Camila that he helped the general escape out of the goodness of his heart and that he hides her away in a neighborhood inn to protect her from her father’s enemies. Whatever his original intentions, this “line” soon comes close to being the truth, for Ángel Face finds himself facing a totally new emotion and motivation:...

(The entire section is 783 words.)