Patrick Gale has long been a master of short fiction, from the neo-Firbankian novellas to the richer comic realism of The Cat Sanctuary. So it comes as no surprise to find that his first collection of short stories shows him to be an adept of the art. The dangerous pleasures of the title are the dark passions that lurk beneath the veneer of respectability. Marital life is, at best, routine
and, at worst, murderous. Gale subtly subverts the familiar rituals of middle class life and revitalises popular settings like the girls’boarding school, where the ghost of Angela Brazil is confronted by the fangs of Bram Stoker, and the cathedral close, where the Trollopian tensions are enlivened by an ex-escort agency worker, a nun nicknamed Knickers, and a malodorous Dutchwoman who chokes to death. Wit and wisdom, metaphor and moment constantly combine to delight.