• The novel opens in a small, Mexican town on Dia de los Muertos in 1939.
• The town doctor and Monsieur Laruelle discuss the local consul, Geoffrey, and his raging alcoholism.
• The reader learns that the consul's parents died when he was young; his adoptive relatives were severe alcoholics, too.
• Laruelle knew the consul in their childhood in Europe; they coincidentally met again in Mexico.
• Hugh, the consul's brother, also lives in Quauhnahuac.
• The reader also learns that the consul has been stationed in Quauhnahuac because, during a British navy mission, he captured German soldiers and then killed them unnecessarily on his ship.
• Yvonne, the consul's estranged wife, returns to Quauhnahuac after being gone for one year. She is immediately concerned about the consul's poor health and alcoholism.
• She speaks with the consul and, as he leads her back to their home, he points out obvious and familiar...
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