Andrew Gray, Author . Raincoast $14.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-55192-508-0

Gray wades into the world of the lost and the rudderless in his first short story collection, an up-and-down series of 12 tales featuring innovative conceits, plenty of characters fleeing from life's problems and large doses of ironic, dark humor. Several of the more successful entries revolve around shattered relationships, most notably "Outside," a story about how a car accident separates a couple, and the title story, which describes the doubt and self-incrimination that plague a man who sleeps with his wife's sexually adventurous sister. Family terrain is also thoroughly explored, particularly in "Ring Around the Moon," a story about a buttoned-down insurance worker who goes off on an adventure when his father moves back to his native Scotland, and "Feeding the Animals," a hard-hitting tale about a man whose experimentation with recreational drugs almost has tragic consequences when his young daughter gets into his animal tranquilizers. Gray also has a flair for the bizarre, which he showcases in "Intensive Care," the story of a suicidal woman with a compulsive habit of enlisting in clinical trial studies, and "Heart of the Land," the tale of a doctor who falls in love with a patient with a brain tumor after she begins spouting some unusual revelations during a clinical study. As intriguing as Gray is when he's on, he also produces a few clunkers, running appealing situations and conceits into the ground. The lack of consistency weakens the collection, but there are more than enough worthwhile stories in the mix to make this a successful debut. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/18/2002
Release date: 03/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
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