Nine stories of contemporary English-small-town life--from a versatile writer who remained vigorous and gritty (cf. The Claw) right up until her recent death at 80. Several of these plain, readable tales feature, in fact, elderly ladies with the no-nonsense pluck of Lofts herself: in ""Now You Have Me,"" lame, house-bound Mrs. Bracey takes the bad with the good when a young lodger offers her kindness and company; proper Mrs. Armitage (in ""Lord, Who Is My Neighbour?"") quite shamelessly lies to the police--using her neighbour's accidental death as a weapon against the local teenagers who have terrorized both women. In the title story, too, there's non-judgmental acceptance of ""downright immoral"" behavior: a young widowed mother, in order to preserve the happy relationship with her thieving son, chooses not to confront him with his crimes. And most of the other pieces give unsentimental, downbeat twists to domestic, usually triangular situations: a husband is manipulated by both wife and mother; a youngish dress-shop-owner resists the advances of a local (married) squire--until his daughter tries to sabotage the shop; an aged businessman's longtime secretary/mistress meekly accepts her sad, solitary retirement--until her old lover's dire straits inspire her to take command for the first time. One story, ""God's Own Elect,"" attempts to cover too much ground--including the legal/medical/moral dilemmas arising from a Jehovah's-Witness-like cult--and flounders badly. Everywhere else, however, Lofts offers a professional blend of up-to-date social observation, psychological shrewdness, and ironic storytelling flair--in a crisp, knowing, un-stodgy collection.