Sixteen stories in three groups (War, Armistice, Peace) but united by a common gift: the author's fine-tuned ability to craft astute observations of human nature. In his foreword to this second collection, Flynn (The Last Klick, not reviewed, etc.) says he hopes the reader will find ""the spirit of God in every story,"" but it seems more the spirit of man that colors the best of the pieces here, with their themes of the Vietnam War, Christianity, and the sometimes unclear distinctions between good and evil. Most manage to stay free of stereotype and clichâ€š. In ""Land of the Free,"" a black father and his adolescent daughter remain dignified as they stand up to ignorance in a backwoods Texas town. The Hemingwayesque ""A Boy and His Dog""--a young Marine in Vietnam loses confidence in his trained dog when the animal fails to detect a mine and allows another Marine to die--is a clear twist on the traditional version of man and man's best friend. ""At Play in the Sewers of the Lord"" is also a spin on the familiar: An inheritance, a sewage plant, becomes not a boon but an albatross. And ""Games Children Play,"" though it wraps up too neatly, highlights the complex relationship between children who think they need to parent an elderly mother and the still keen, resentful mother herself. The author's chief weakness is a liking for the obvious: ""Reluctant Truth"" is saved, barely, by its quirky grandfather, but the title story makes too overt an analogy between hyenas and men, while ""X-mas,"" about a modern-day birth of the baby Jesus, suffers from a lack of subtlety that's fortunately the exception more than the rule throughout. In most of the stories here, though, Flynn portrays quiet dignity, humanity, and a wisdom that comes from experience.