Explaining Death to the Dog by Susan Perabo, Bloomsbury pounds 9.99. Perabo is a 29-year-old creative writing teacher at a Mid-Western college you have probably never heard of, and this is her first collection of short stories. There is nothing to explain what gives her the sensitivity and detachment to create narrators who speak as young boys or old men as fluently as their female counterparts. These range from the humorous - the beleaguered Hollywood actor whose ageing father takes up jewel theft - to the serious - the man who feigns amnesia to win back his estranged wife - and the poignant - the boy who sees his weedy father beaten up.
As a professional student of writing, Perabo will have been aware of how the latter prime material has been used in the past, but the comparisons that may have crossed her mind have done nothing to diminish the originality of her own voice.
Other curiosity pieces - the death of Batman witnessed by his jaded butler, a woman who spends her inheritance on one of Princess Diana's dresses and an old woman who buys 900 lottery tickets a week - could have come from brainstorming sessions in a creative writing workshop. But others could only have come from a very bright talent.