Parole Officer Maria Peres confronts Brooklyn's volatile streets and disturbing incidents in her own past while hunting a parole violator who has committed a particularly heinous crime. More profoundly, the novel explores a young woman's search for a meaningful life in a flawed world where morality is relative and terrible acts are committed gratuitously.
The poetry of one of the novel's characters provides a further level of exploration. While ostensibly narrating the Aztec's fall to the conquistadors, the verse, by suggesting a parallel between the historical characters in the poem and the characters in the novel itself, leads to reflections on the ambiguous nature of individuality and its relationship to the past.
This inward journey uses flashbacks and time shifts to create an ambiance of simultaneity as well as a portrait of the city-a city that emerges as one of the novel's unifying themes.