Gale has created an environment and a credible and predominantly middle-class cast which marry together the macabre tales of M.R. James and the waspish wit of E.F. Benson. But Gale adds to this potent brew an ingredient already evident in his previous novels: compassion for the human condition. For Gale has a fondness for his characters and a deep tolerance of their foibles which shines through his writing even when he is creating an individual at best unlovely and at worst thoroughly unpleasant. Assured and immensely enjoyable.