From England, effortlessly skilled stories by newcomer Lucas: peerings into the private lives and secret tribulations of rich and poor, mainly in and around Bombay, with forays to Ireland and London. A steady hand, unflaggingly observant eye, and gracefully understated evenness of tone deliver one after another of Lucas's stories. A sensitive boy privately comes of age in Bombay as the marriage of his Irish working-class parents crumbles hopelessly and rather comically ("The Massage Parlour"); a triangle of desperate sexual tension among three teen-agers, two boys and a girl, results in the death of one ("Moving Targets"); and a brilliantly talented saxophonist from India hangs himself in despair for a love lost through the bizarre sexual maneuverings of the very rich ("The Vulnerable Mede"). Sometimes Lucas seems only to skim the surface in pieces that are little more than fleeting entertainments--in the neatly wrapped-up sex comedy "An Afternoon's Pleasure," for example, or in "Beautiful Billimoria," about a man who remains impotent until he flings his cruelly overprotective mother from a balcony. But even in these slight tales there's invariably a droll and unjudgmental richness of actually lived lives, in luxury or in squalor, that draws the narratives on. Except for the allure of this quietly hyper-real exactness of the minutia of place and character, there are no surprises in stories like "The Pathan's Girl" (upper-crust Britisher, in the 1930's, gives in to her lust for an Indian boy) or "Evenings at Mongini's" (two young wives have a fling in Bombay during the WW II years). At times, though, Lucas's narratives follow their instincts to the blossoming-out of an astonishing and breathtaking pathos--in the lovingly unflinching life-story of the declining capitalist and businessman Sultan Buckrabhoy from his great wealth in Bombay after WW II to his murder by a skinhead in the squalor of 1980's London; or in the reverential loveliness of "Bismarck," about a poor watchmaker in Bombay and a leper-girl from the streets. At their best, stories of India and Britain that tap at the floor of heaven.