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Rosalie Parker. Tartarus, $25 (220p) ISBN 978-1-786360-22-9

Parker (The Old Knowledge) intersperses some of her trademark exercises in the macabre among this volume’s more mainstream selections, showing her dexterity with a variety of different storytelling approaches. In the title tale, a physician devises a crafty but shocking gambit for saving a refugee patient from deportation. The selkie, a seal-like creature in Scottish folklore that can shed its skin to become human, serves as a potent metaphor for a morally suspect writer uncomfortable in his own “skin” in “Selkie—A Scottish Idyll.” A poignant period story, “Beth—Harvest Home,” tells of a young housemaid who must choose between her servile job and the precarious sense of freedom that she feels roaming the countryside. In several of these 20 stories, events build to a dramatic moment when the prospect of the supernatural emerges, as in “Random Flight,” in which a pursuing flock of crows appears to hasten a con artist’s flight from a town whose residents he has bilked, and “Oracle,” in which a boy’s encounter with a motherly stranger, whom he meets in the North Yorkshire countryside during WWII, seems to presage a tragedy that haunts him into his adult life. Skillfully told in clear, simple prose, these slice-of-life stories entertain with their evocation of ordinary—and sometimes extraordinary—possibilities. (Dec.)