In a remote Andean village, three men have disappeared. Peruvian Army corporal Lituma and his deputy Tomás have been dispatched to investigate, and to guard the town from the Shining Path guerrillas, whom they presume are responsible. But the townspeople resent and mistrust them, and Lituma is baffled by their mystical practices as well as by reports of violent deaths nearby. To pass the time, and to cope with their homesickness, Tomás entertains Lituma nightly with the sensuous, surreal tale of his precarious love affair with a wayward prostitute. Evocatively intermingling the corporeal and the spiritual, a suspense story and political allegory, Mario Vargas Llosa offers a panoramic view of contemporary Peru.