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Architecture professor Juan Manuel Barrientos, the beguiling protagonist of Celorio's richly layered novel (his first to be translated into English), celebrates his retirement with an all-night binge accompanied by some favored students, and they agree to meet again the following day. When the students fail to appear, the professor begins to tour Mexico City on his own. The reader, now his only fellow-traveler, is treated to a learned and broad history interspersed with the fragmented memoir of Juan Manuel, who by happy hour has consumed "four beers, three tequilas, half a bottle of wine," some brandy and two martinis. By nightfall, he's falling down drunk, and there's suspense about a body hidden in Juan Manuel's closet and the failure of the students to appear, and as Juan Manuel descends into an alcoholic stupor, Celoria builds enough mystery about his state of mind to keep the what-will-happen-next question alive. It's intriguing and intelligent; readers familiar with the city will appreciate it anew. (Mar.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.