Heat-the steamy oppression of Honduras's Mosquito Coast and the turgid psychological condition of this novel's two leading characters-dominates Shepard's macabre excursion into the paranormal (after Colonel Rutherford's Colt). Having survived eighteen days adrift in the Caribbean, even after the suspicious disappearance of his two Nicaraguan companions, wealthy young American Thomas Stearns is treated for amnesia by semi-retired Honduran psychiatrist Dr. Arturo Ochoa. Sinister flotsam surfaces from Stearns's unconscious as he half-remembers a primitive statue rising out of a maelstrom, a Mesoamerican artifact supposedly buried at Trujillo by Columbus's men and containing an ancient demon. The statue's symbolism posits an interrelation between death and sexuality that gradually obsesses Ochoa until the physician/patient roles reverse, a process catalyzed by the strangely gifted young native woman Stearns marries. Though Shepard's extended scenes of sexual predation and sadism may be excessive, his evocation of sultry tropical dangers and spiritual possession is powerful, like a suffocating nightmare when the air conditioning-or conventional morality-has broken down.