Gale writes with such humanity and warmth in his novels that it comes as a surprise that his short stories are told in a different, darker voice. A man wreaks nasty vengeance on his father when he’s too old and incapacitated to retaliate; two gay ‘church crawlers’ on their honeymoon unleash something deeply unpleasant when they take an apparently abandoned Georgian tea caddy back home with them from a church; a viciously homophobic couple try to enrol a mild-mannered spinster in their hate campaign. There are ghost stories here, not always benign, distinctly bleak Cornish farm stories and an unwholesome atmosphere at a naturist camp. Although, as always, Gale’s writing is sharply evocative, the tendency is for the stories simply to tail off in a disappointing way that delivers neither surprise nor insight.

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