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The world is ending. The rust-coloured sky drips acid rain over covered cities incapable of communicating with each other. Peter lives in Madrid, one of the few big cities that have survived a series of natural disasters and wars. His girlfriend is kidnapped and he confronts the kidnappers, a criminal organisation and his father-in-law's anger, the mayor of Madrid.
Sick of being mistreated by her pimp, a prostitute leaves him and meets a cinema usher, a sinister man whose pleasure at work consists of controlling the couples feeling each other up in the back row by shining his torch at them. For a week, these two characters maintain a peculiar relationship that will end up in tragedy.
During the four hours that go by as he waits for the moving van to pick him up, the Málaga painter Jorge Díaz goes over his life up to that moment, spent since he was a child imitating - in even the most minute details - his countryman Pablo Picasso. This obsessive necessity to be like his idol has led him into pathetic, and sometimes comical, situations.
Verónica León is a homicide inspector in Madrid. For a couple of years now she has been involved in a difficult relationship with sub inspector Roberto Vidal, who separated from his wife at that point. During one of their occasional trysts, they are informed that an old man has been murdered.
Nagasaki, August, 1945. Kazuo, a young Westerner who has settled in Japan, and Junko, the beautiful daughter of a flower arrangement designer, have agreed to meet on a hill to seal their teenage love with a haiku that hides a secret about their relationship. Minutes before the time for their meeting arrives, the atomic bomb turns the city into the worst of all hells. Tokyo, February 2011.
The novel opens with the announcement of the death of a father during a bedroom scene involving his son and closes on the same day of the year, over three decades later, in the same house, into which the intrusion of some burglars causes the past of two lovers to be released from a black box.
Israel works in a small concession of a shop set within another shop, on the ground floor of the La Vaguada shopping centre. He used to be a dreamer, a true romantic with his head in the clouds, but now, after reading a self-help book that has promised him he'll become a better person, he has adopted a fluid style of life.