by Muriel Spark
Houghton Mifflin; 192 pages; $18.95
If Muriel Spark were a car, she would be getting about 50 miles to the gallon. The author of one of the most elegant short novels of the century, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, wastes not a word in this, her 19th, novel. With brief snatches of conversation, 10 characters at a London dinner party are introduced with such clarity that the reader knows who would be a bore to sit next to and who will drink too much.
This dinner, with its plump pheasant, understated Bordeaux and unobtrusive help from...