The prolific Theroux (My Other Life, 1996, etc.) has published four volumes of short stories. This omnibus gathers all but two of the tales from Sinning with Annie (1972), The Consul's File (1977), World's End (1980), and The London Embassy (1983), and adds several previously uncollected stories. The collection forcefully demonstrates that Theroux, although he has written some unsettling and provocative novels, is often at his best as a writer of short fiction: His fascination with the ways in which a gesture or simple event can reveal the essentials of character, his shrewd eye for the rich resonance of seemingly modest events (especially when mutually uncomprehending Westerners and Africans and Asians collide), and his obvious pleasure in the constraints of a short story, the necessity for an economical use of language and incident, are all powerfully on display here. Tales like ``Clapham Junction,'' ``Sinning with Annie,'' ``Conspirators,'' and ``The Exile,'' among many others, are strong, unsettling, and unique. A varied, powerful, often moving collection, then, by one of our most original and ambitious authors.