The seventh edition of this annual anthology--from Britain but with an international bent--features, often enough, refined mandarin prose and multilayered narratives that offer a marked contrast to American minimalism. With one exception, the fictions are original: the solicitation process is unclear, but the writers range from established (Clare Colvin, Laura Kalpakian, Piers Paul Read, Tom Wakefield) to emerging (Balraj Khanna, Tony Peake, Patrick Roscoe). Read's ""Family Christmas"" is a delicate slice-of-life about a wife who returns with her family, including her stiff husband (""just another irritable paterfamilias""), to her recently widowed mother's house. Colvin's ""The Archduke's Dwarf"" makes delightful use of historical and fairy-tale elements to meditate on the nature of love. In tragicomic fashion, Khanna, a transposed Indian, dramatizes (in ""The Last Card Game"") the domestic warfare between a husband who longs for the ""good old days in the Punjab"" and a wife whose maternal feelings have been displaced onto a terrier. Helen Harris's deft ""The Mirage"" is a sad tale about a woman who ""married modestly"" for ""a straight exchange,"" not love, before quarreling with her unloved husband and eventually drifting into loneliness. Scottish writer Alison Fell's ""Queen Christina and the Windsurfer"" is a lyrically playful encounter between goddesses and mortals, whereas ""carpe Diem"" by Isidoro Blaisten (from Buenos Aires) is a clever anthology-ending bit of wordplay that punctuates this edition's commitment to the eclecticism of various keys both major and minor. While the overall quality of the 12 stories is mixed, the cosmopolitan tone and varied forms are satisfying.