An under-par Winter's Tales this time--despite some stylish contributors. Both Robert Barnard and Simon Brett provide some expected amusement--the former with ""Little Terror"" (about a prissy bachelor's vacation, blighted by an obnoxious tot), the latter with ""Letter to his Son"" (in which a jaunty crook counsels his son on the benefits of a classy veneer). But both stories build up to big letdowns with their weak punch lines. Likewise, Tim Heald's ""A Jumbo Death""--with series sleuth Simon Bognor learning about elephant polo in Nepal--is an atmospheric trifle that never shapes up into a satisfying plot. And other ironic tales by Jonathan Gash, David Williams, John Wainwright, and Margaret Yorke (about genteel male prostitution, sexual triangles, long-ago blackmail, and a scare-gone-awry Ã¡ la Ruth Rendell) are awfully thin and ragged. Nor are the more serious entries much sturdier. B.M. Gill's ""A Certain Kind of Skill""--about a terminally ill man who decides to murder his wife's bygone seducer--begins well but then (like several of Gill's novels) becomes over-tricky and maudlin. Timothy Holme provides Italian cop Peroni with a psycho-melodrama during a bus tour--unconvincing fare, despite echoes of Christie's The Mirror Crack'd. And two studies of guilt (or presumed guilt) leading to suicide--by Philip Kerrigan and Anne Morice--fall rather flat. Well-written for the most part, in the crisp British manner, but short on suspense and cleverness throughout.