COMPLICATIONS

CRIMES OF LOVE, POLITICS AND MEDICINE FLARE IN OLD MANILA

BRITISH NOVELIST WILLIAM BOYD will never be accused of taking the safe route. His new novel, The Blue Afternoon (Knopf; 373 pages; $23), is for the most part a superior piece of fiction with unusual, mostly immoral characters, plenty of suspense and a truly ghoulish surprise. Unfortunately, that story, set in Manila in 1902, doesn't begin until page 87.

Before that comes a sketch of a youngish architect, Kay Fischer, who is trying to launch a career in Los Angeles in 1936. She meets a man named Salvador Carriscant, who claims to be her father, and eventually she accompanies him to...

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