Journalist Buch's first novel is a three-part romp through the colonial tensions, magical interludes and deadpan brutality of Haitian history. Part one begins in 1802. A large French war fleet arrives in Haiti under the command of Captain General Leclerc, husband of Napoleon's pampered sister Pauline. The fleet's aim is to reestablish control over the rebellious black forces. The treacherous Vincent Laraque, a French officer, is sent into the dream-landscape interior, arrests liberator Toussaint L'Ouverture and marches him off to prison, then is rewarded by being put in charge of building a pleasure palace for the spoiled Pauline. Through a strange twist of events, he ends his life in the service of the Haitian general, Dessalines. Part Two is a drama in documents. An incident in 1897 in which a German businessman is arrested for allegedly hitting a Haitian policeman escalates into an international tiff, culminating in gun-toting German warships taking a macho stand off the Haitian coast. In Part Three, it's 1898. Louis Buch (the narrator's grandfather) and his wife Pauline arrive in Portau-Prince from Germany. Buch, a pharmacist, sets up a lucrative business selling Europeans the trendiest new drugs, while Pauline is alternately hysterical and lethargic; a voodoo priestess temporarily cures her but she dies of mysterious causes. Buch goes off into the interior, has a magical liaison with a water nymph and is rewarded with a cola-drink formula for his services. While he remarries and raises two revolutionary children, Haiti continues to swirl through its bewildering succession of leaders. Buch offers glimpses of beauty, brutality and historical patterns, but in all, this complicated portrait may prove too tangled for unpredisposed tastes.