Danish author Willumsen places a non-contemporary tale at either end of this story collection: ancient Rome is the setting for one; in the other, children play in a post-nuclear-war background. In between, however, there is the now: lives of people--usually women--portrayed in their most dour, strained positions. There's a Margaret Atwood-ish story of infidelity, told in not-a-word-wasted summary style; similarly narrated is the anesthetized passage of a marriage through social fashions and trends in ""Separate Ways."" And, in the title piece, a lonely man's numbed road--from divorceereject to burglar to rapist to murderer--is distanced by his belief that it would all be more comprehensible to him, this life, if he could be watching it like a movie. Still, the book's best story is the Roman one: ""The Vestal Virgin,"" in which a plain girl has nowhere else to go but to Vesta's temple, while her best friend Messalina becomes Empress. And the other fully effective entry is a recasting of Strindberg--""The Stronger II"": a dramatic monologue by an ex-wife to her successor, in which poison flows out and backs up in equal measure. Willumsen, then, is a dark voice, one of some affect and economical art--but the range here is small, with most of the material familiar from previous, firmer, English-language treatments.