By Jennifer Reese
Updated March 30, 2007 04:00 AM
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Angelica Arthur Phillips’ clever, chilly novel begins as a ghost story: Constance Barton, a nervous Victorian housewife, suspects that an evil spirit is preying upon her 4-year-old daughter, Angelica. Constance, terrified of sex, traces the nighttime hauntings to her husband Joseph’s thwarted libido: ”His appetites are too strong to be contained in him,” she tells a spiritualist. ”They are taking form outside his body.” She could be detecting something real; she might be totally nuts. Our impression of what’s happening changes often as Phillips shifts perspective, illustrating the folly of trying to pigeonhole not just this profoundly troubled marriage, but anyone’s. B+