This collection of stories from the author of Notes from an Exhibition mixes the mundane and the paranormal. Demonic possession, bloody murder and hauntings share space with disappointing holidays, church tourism and the politics of seat-saving at classical music concerts. Almost all the tales are set in the West Country, and have an old-fashioned atmosphere – an English netherworld of comic reticence and baffled discomfort at (for example) the thought of gayness. Gale relies on a set-em-up, knock-em-down formula, typically ending with an ironic punchline – although this makes the weaker stories feel like thin jokes. After discovering she’s spent her stay in an Indonesian resort befriending a poetic ghost, a shy author “grew in the certainty that exotic travel did not suit her”. Neglected by her boyfriend in favour of a dream-diary she encouraged him to begin, a woman makes eyes at “an eminently sensible” new man: “Brian, she felt sure, was not a dreamer”. Stories such as The Dark Cutter, about a cattle accident, are heavier and more intriguing.

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