Books: Venetian Affair

TERRITORIAL RIGHTS by Muriel Spark Coward, McCann &; Geoghegan; 240 pages; $9. 95

Twenty years and 15 novels later, Muriel Spark is as tricky as ever. At first appearance,her cool, elegant prose and witty characters seem comfortable within the traditional British comedy of manners. But with a twist of plot here and a turn of the psychological screw there, Spark sends her comedies careening off in deadlier directions. Wit becomes malice. Tea and crumpets mask terror and corruption. Ordinary lives turn bizarre and mysterious.

Territorial Rights, the latest of Spark's engaging deceptions, is...

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