On the terrace of an eloborate hilltop apartment overlooking a Central American capital, four people sit making polite conversation. The American couple -- an elderly physician and his young wife -- are tourists. Their host, whom they have just met, is a young man of striking good looks and charm. The girl, who is his mistress, is very young and very beautiful. Sitting there, with drinks in their hands, watching the sunset, the Slades seem to be experiencing the sort of fortunate chance encounter that travelers cherish. But amidst the civilities and small talk, one remark proves prophetic. The host says to the American woman: "It's not exactly what you think." Masterfully -- with the poetic control that has always characterized his work -- Paul Bowles leads the reader beneath the surface of hospitality and luxury into a tortuous maze of human relationships and shifting moods, until what seems at first a merely casual encounter is seen to be one rooted in viciousness and horror.