In her first story collection, eminent British author George (A Traitor to Memory) presents five nimbly written and gripping tales, each with a stunning conclusion. "Exposure" concerns declining sexual prowess, as gossipy architecture students speculate about Polly Simpson, who is suspiciously friendly with elderly men touring Abinger Manor, where one oldster dies mysteriously just as some historic silverware is stolen. In "The Surprise of His Life," high-powered CEO Douglas Armstrong, obsessively jealous and mistrustful of his young wife, learns too late that she's planning an astonishing final surprise for both him and the reader. Similarly, a young widow in "Remember I'll Always Love You" is horrified to discover the secret double life led by her late husband, purportedly a sales director for a biotech firm, but in reality something far more sinister. A melancholy tone pervades "Good Fences Aren't Always Enough," in which an elderly Russian refugee, Anfisa, scandalizes her socially conscious neighbors in fashionable East Wingate with her determination to live life her own way. In the title story, ambitious and murderous schoolteacher Malcolm Cousins is determined to perpetuate the reputation of his hero, Richard III, while also absconding with the wife and substantial legacy of a former school chum. A brooding, gloomy dust jacket suggests gothic themes, but the tales are thoroughly modern in setting and subject. (Oct. 29)
Forecast:Advertising in national newspapers and magazines as well as holiday catalogs, plus NPR sponsorship announcements, should help sales approach those of the author's novels.