As lyrical at times as its predecessor Landscape: Memory (1990), Stadler's latest is also a more ambitious undertaking--but this slurry of historical sleuthing, musical fantasy, and personal discovery ultimately overreaches itself. In a time near our own, academia and the police serve as the twin, codependent pillars of society in a nightmarish American city where nature is as oppressive and intrusive by day as searchlight- swarming choppers of the law are by night. Nicholas Dee is a mild- mannered history professor ready to research a book--The History of Insurance/The Insurance of History--but plans go awry when he meets Amelia, a mysterious dwarf who piques his interest, then reveals that she was his dead father's mistress and that her son, whom Nicholas has been treating as a little brother, is in fact just that. He becomes ensnared in Amelia's obscure designs, learning further that his renowned historian father was illiterate and that Amelia was the true author of his works; his history turns from an overview to a case study of a 17th-century opera house built in the Netherlands marshes by an eccentric Englishman under the influence of his uromancer (urine diviner), where one performance occurred before the house was lost to the sea, reportedly having been insured. Nicholas and Amelia, plus the boy and an even more mysterious young orphan of the street, Oscar Vega, travel to and through the Netherlands to reach the place where past and present can intersect--and where Nicholas loses himself by being seduced by Oscar. Homoeroticism provides the only heat in Stadler's second novel--a curious but fitful tale in which pages from the score of Purcell's The Tempest appear: a sop to intertextuality that seems mostly pretentious.