A sampler spanning four decades of eminent Irish stylist Higgins's work, these 18 selections (all but two previously published, some under different titles) offer a multifaceted, melancholic view of Europe, past and present, in which skewed passions figure prominently. The title story, an earlier effort, features a middle-aged husband on holiday with his dotty in-laws who, long frustrated by his corpulent wife's coldness, resorts to raping the black maid. "Asylum" throws together an Irish workingman who's lost the will to work and the alcoholic son of a landowner, taking a cure in order to claim his inheritance. The two play winter golf at a frigid seaside resort, while at night the scion tries to instill his vast education into his companion's thick head. But that head is full of a young chanteuse glimpsed at the local theater, leaving the intellectual talking to himself—which drops him right off the wagon. The aging rake Catchpole, vacationing in Spain in the story bearing his name, recounts endless tales of his gay love life, while eyeing the tight-jeaned prospects from his café table and all but ignoring his wife and infant. More recent writings are even more in the travelogue vein, with the sights of Copenhagen the scene for the fractured romance of "Helsingor Station," and the mood of Munich as Israeli athletes are killed by terrorists during the '72 Olympics central to "Black September."
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